MELISSA DIANE SMITH
Q Several older women I know either have had breast cancer or have it now. I’m only 18, but I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to protect my breasts now so I don’t develop breast cancer in the future?
Kudos to you for thinking about prevention early in life! There are many things you can do to protect the health of your breasts. Key strategies focus on avoiding hormone disruptive chemicals and potential carcinogens (chemicals that cause cancer) in the food you eat and in the cleaning and personal care products you use.
What to Know about Breast Cancer Susceptibility
About one in every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, only 5–10 percent of breast cancer diagnoses are associated with a family history of the disease. Between 15 and 20 percent of breast cancers are linked to lifestyle factors, and more than 70 percent of breast cancers are largely unexplained.
Research has focused on endocrine disruptors—chemicals in our environment that interfere with hormone action, which in turn leads to adverse physiological effects. The picture that has emerged from the research is that exposure to environmental toxins during critical windows of susceptibility (puberty, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause) may increase the likelihood of developing a breast cancer.
One great resource is Protect Our Breasts (protectourbreasts.org), which features information on the Silent Spring Institute’s 216 mammary carcinogens and The Endocrine Disruptors Exchange’s list of 870 potential endocrine disruptors. The Protect Our Breasts website states:
“The newest science clearly shows women are most vulnerable during the years up and through the first full-term pregnancy. It is NOT women in their 50s. It is the young women who think nothing of a potential diagnosis that need most to avoid toxins in everyday products now and throughout their pregnancy— for their own health and for the next generation.”
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