Breast cancer risk could include environment and socioeconomic factors

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Your family history can reveal whether you are at risk of developing breast cancer, but new studies show more women without a history are being diagnosed with the disease.

Now researchers want more consideration of environmental factors that may influence a woman's risk.

The report, “Breast Cancer and the Environment — Prioritizing Prevention,” indicates that several environmental factors, like how much alcohol a woman consumes, exercise, exposure to industrial waste and pesticides, and socioeconomic factors can play a role.

Studies of women who have moved from Japan, known for low cancer rates, to the United States, show that their breast cancer risk increases once living here for a prolonged period of time.

Dr. Dev Paul of Rose Medical Hospital's Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers says new studies are revealing important information about non-gene related causes of cancer. "We know that young women in their teens, if they get exposed to radiation for whatever reason, it can raise the risk for breast cancer significantly," yet that is not the case for women in their 30's.

Denver resident Roxanne Paternetti fought breast cancer, and won.

She says, "I knew I was going to war with disease." Roxanne had no family history of breast cancer. Her first mammogram revealed the beginnings of cancerous cells before a tumor had developed.

Doctors quickly enrolled her in a study where she received accelerated doses of chemotherapy and other treatments. She is cancer-free today and says no woman should downplay the importance of getting her mammogram. "They’re finding things they didn’t find ten years ago."

Most researchers would love for more money to be allocated to programs that study environmental risk factors, however funding can be sparse when drug development is a priority.

In fact, only 10 percent of research in recent years involved environment and prevention.

Between the years of 2008 to 2010, the National Institutes of Health spent $357 million on environmental and prevention-related research in breast cancer.

From 2006 to 2010, the Department of Defense spent $52.2 million on prevention-oriented research, about 8.6 percent of the money devoted to breast cancer.

Doctors say in addition to getting a mammogram once a year at the age recommended by her physician, a woman should eat plenty of thoroughly washed raw fruits and vegetables to fight cancer.  For more information visit

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