Breast cancer rates are increasing in Europe. The growth rate appears to be fastest in Eastern Europe but it is in Northern and Western Europe where there is the greatest risk of contracting the disease.
Around 1 in 8 women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This is why CHEM Trust is working to highlight the environmental causes that have been linked with breast cancer, such as exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.
It has long been known that breast cancer risks are higher among women who have their first baby late in life, or who do not have children, or who have high alcohol consumption, or poor, high fat diets. However, life choices and changes in lifestyle can only partly explain the worrying trends.
Around 1 in 20 breast cancer cases are believed to be inherited, but for the vast majority of women the disease is ‘acquired’ during their lifetime. Experts estimate that more than half of all breast cancers are due to unidentified causes.
So what are these unidentified causes or additional factors?
There is the growing view that pollution, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals, that is hormone mimics, may be implicated in the increase of breast cancer.
Hormonally active chemicals surround us. They include the classic nasty ones, like PCBs and DDT, most of which were banned years ago – but are still in us and the environment because they are persistent, and also many modern-use chemicals that make up the fabric of our highly developed, 21st century lifestyles.
Not only are they in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, but also in personal care products in the bathroom, plastic products everywhere, electronic products in your home, office and school and in our beds, sofas, curtains and cushions.
Findings from 2 recent areas of research increase the biological plausibility that hormone disrupting chemicals play a role in breast cancer.
The first research is the so called cocktail effect – where the hormone disrupting effects of several chemicals can add up. Individually they may be weak, but together they are of concern.
The second area of research shows that women may be particularly sensitive to breast cancer-causing factors – during vulnerable periods during development – specifically during in-utero development and puberty.