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Expert Panel Pinpoints Environmental Culprits in Breast Cancer
Date:12/7/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Women can lower their risk of developing breast cancer by avoiding unnecessary medical radiation, forgoing menopausal hormone therapy and limiting alcohol use, but they don't need to worry about using hair dyes or cellphones, a broad new national report says.

Reviewing the body of research on environmental factors that may affect breast cancer risk, the nonprofit, independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) also said that the scientific jury is still out on whether exposure to some chemicals -- including bisphenol A (BPA), pesticides and ingredients in cosmetics and dietary supplements -- alter women's odds of the disease.

"There's been so much concern about the environment, and I think the report is a comprehensive look at what we really know, based on human evidence," said Dr. Robert Hiatt, a member of the 15-member IOM committee that compiled the 364-page analysis.

"It does a number of things: identifies elements of the environment we think are important in breast cancer causation, tells researchers and public health people what we can do to move forward on the issue, and provides opportunities for individual women to modify their lifestyle or behavior to diminish the impact," added Hiatt, also a professor and chair of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

The report, funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, was unveiled Wednesday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The committee, interpreting "environment" to include all factors not inherited through DNA, noted that many breast cancer risk factors can't be modified, including age, family history, and age at first menstruation and menopause. Another barrier is that breast cancer research cannot center on the strongest types of studies -- randomized controlled clinical trials -- because of the ethical challenges of inten
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