y products made of polycarbonate plastic (clear, hard plastic), such as baby bottles, reusable water bottles, food storage containers, food cans and water supply pipes, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Although no human studies have confirmed an association with breast cancer, a study done in mice suggests there may be a link. However, the U.S Food and Drug Administration recently said the agency felt there were "adequate margins of safety" for the chemical in the amounts commonly consumed.
"We don't know what constitutes an unacceptable level," said Schneider who would prefer to err on the side of caution and limit BPA exposure, especially in infants and young girls.
Schneider said another concerning risk factor is the amount of radiation people are exposed to for routine health problems, particularly from CT scans.
Although the last risk factor from Schneider's top three -- delayed first pregnancy -- isn't one people are likely to change, he said it's important to be aware of it. "In a modern society, it's exceedingly difficult to have a pregnancy before 20 when it would be quite protective," said Schneider.
Dr. Jay Brooks is chair of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. He said, "When you look at environmental and chemical risk factors, you have to remember that we live in a sea of chemicals, and those chemicals have made our lives so much nicer, and it's hard to know exactly what each one does to an individual's risk.
"I advise my patients to try to control the things you have good control over. Weight is a huge issue in breast cancer, as is the use of combined estrogen/progesterone after menopause," he added.
Brooks said extra weight is a risk factor that many women underestimate, but being overweight clearly increases risk. And, he said, estrogen therapy alone used to ease menopausal symptoms doesn't seem to increase risk the way the
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