While researchers have made great strides in understanding a woman’s genetic susceptibility to breast cancer, what is not as well-known is the relationship that may exist between environmental factors, personal choices, and the risk of developing the disease. Researchers are beginning to recognize that the risk of developing breast cancer may begin early in a girl’s life, during times of rapid breast development.
Scientists in the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) – which was created through the combined efforts of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute – are in various stages of research associated with determining whether exposure to certain chemicals and foods may alter the timing of first menstruation.
Although more research is needed to confirm the specific role that certain chemicals or lifestyle choices play in the development of breast cancer, health providers and parents may choose to apply the “precautionary principle”- that is, until there is more certainty about the scientific findings resulting from the BCERP research, caution should be exercised and exposure to chemicals and other factors that may be harmful should be reduced.
View a detailed summary of research that provides health professionals with an introduction to BCERP and, through an examination of BCERP research and other studies, will increase understanding of environmental factors that may play a role in the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly during windows of susceptibility. This summary also provides guidance on motivating change among parents and caregivers and links to additional resources.
As a health professional, you can help parents (or other caregivers) and their children know that they can take steps now that may make a difference in their health across their lifespan. Advise patients, parents, caregivers, and family members to learn all they can about the role of environmental exposures and breast cancer risk by using resources from this website.
We also encourage health professionals to download the educational materials developed for parents and caregivers to help them identify steps they can take to reduce their daughter’s risk of developing breast cancer as an adult.