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UW Experts Say More Focus Needed on Breast Cancer Prevention

Madison, Wisconsin - The federal government should make breast cancer prevention a priority and place funding for prevention at the same level as other types of research, says a sweeping new report issued by scientists and breast cancer experts. 


The report emphasizes that more resources should be directed toward learning more about the relationship between environmental contaminants and breast cancer.


The National Institutes of Health currently funds only 10 percent of its breast cancer research portfolio on the environmental causes of the disease.


"While there is a good investment in breast cancer research by the federal government, very little of that money is spent on primary prevention," says Dr. Michael Gould, Kelly H. Clifton chair of the department of oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.


"We simply don’t know as much as we should about what in the environment triggers breast cancer," adds Gould, who is an expert on breast cancer genetics and a member of the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research and the UW Carbone Cancer Center.


Gould chaired the research process committee of the Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC), which is presenting the result of five years of work to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today.


The group was led by Dr. Michele Forman, an epidemiologist at The University of Texas at Austin, who says, "We want this report to be a call to action, to bring awareness to the issue of prevention and move the country forward on this issue. This report is intended to set the stage for a strategic plan in much the same way the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking tobacco changed how we thought about lung cancer risk."

The report recommends a more extensive examination of the role of environmental agents - lifestyle and behavioral factors, chemical and physical agents (such as BPAs), and social and cultural influences - in influencing breast-cancer risk.


Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has registered more than 84,000 chemicals approved for commercial use, fewer than 2 percent have been tested for their ability to promote or produce cancer. 


Existing research points to critical windows of susceptibility, such as fetal development, puberty and pregnancy, during which environmental factors might play a larger role in promoting irregular development of breast tissue and risk for cancer.


Congress passed the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act of 2008, which mandated the formation of the IBCERCC and directed the committee to examine the state of breast cancer and the environment research and to make recommendations for eliminating any knowledge gaps in this area. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute, divisions of the National Institutes of Health, supported the committee’s work. The IBCERCC was also led by Jeanne Rizzo of the Breast Cancer Fund.

Date Published: 02/12/2013

News tag(s):  cancerresearch

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UW Experts Say More Focus Needed on Breast Cancer Prevention

Last updated: 02/13/2013
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