News / Health

Report Identifies Obesity, Hormones as Major Breast Cancer Risks

A breast cancer patient undergoes a mammography examination in a hospital in Athens, Greece, October 2008. (file photo)
A breast cancer patient undergoes a mammography examination in a hospital in Athens, Greece, October 2008. (file photo)
Vidushi Sinha

A new medical report cautions women that obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, overexposure to medical X-rays and hormone treatments during menopause can raise their risk of developing breast cancer. But critics say the report fails to emphasize the cancer-causing impact of many industrial chemicals and environmental pollutants - factors they believe could pose greater breast-cancer risks to women than their lifestyle choices.

The authors of the new report, "Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach," acknowledge that the environment they refer to is more narrowly defined than people might assume. They say it is not the pollutants in the air and water that women should worry about most when it comes to cancer-risk.

“A lot of it is what we may not typically think of as an environment, but is our most important environment. What we eat, how much weight we gain that’s the cause - of eat, exercise, avoiding radiations - things that we have known for a long time to contribute to breast cancer risk,” said Dr. Kathy Helzelsouer of the Mercy Medical Center.

Helzelsouer is one of the co-authors of the report, published by the federally-chartered Institute of Medicine in Washington. She said weight and obesity matter because fat cells produce estrogen and that hormone fuels the growth of most breast cancers.

The report's authors say it urges new measures to protect women from one of the most common types of cancer affecting women.

“There is a call for action to really put into practice... things that we know will help. So one of those things is to minimize [exposure to] radiation, especially in adolescence and when the breast is developing," reads the report.

“This report was devoid of any call to action - was devoid of anything new,” said Laura Anderko, who is a public health scientist at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington. She said the report's narrow definition of the term environment is misleading.

“To suggest that obesity and drinking alcohol are environmental risk factors, I think, really misinforms people or confuses people and creates an idea that there is an individual responsibility to why people get cancer," said Anderko. "For people who have suffered from breast cancer or family members or loved ones, it is frustrating and confusing, and creates a sense of hopelessness.”

Anderko wishes the report had been more robust and provocative, and targeted government and industry roles in reducing women's breast-cancer risks.

Helzelsour stands by the report's conclusions.

“I have taught about cancer epidemiology and cancer research for many years, and I would teach one of the risk factors and one of the environmental exposures is our diet,” said Helzelsour.

The report's critics say it is a missed opportunity, though, to urge stricter standards for testing new chemicals and regulating environmental pollutants that could pose significant breast-cancer risks.

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid