Risk Factors for Breast Cancer: What is Your Body Burden?

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tests the “body burden” of chemicals every two years, finds the average American now has 116 synthetic compounds in her body, including dioxin (produced by burning plastic), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (found in auto exhaust) and organochlorine pesticides (found in farming areas).

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), recent studies have detected these pesticides, plastics and polymers not only in umbilical cord blood, but also in the placenta, in human milk, and in the bloodstreams and body fat of infants. While some of these chemicals can pass through the body in a matter of days, more often than not, they tend to maintain a long-term presence in the body due to persistent or frequent regular exposure.

In its State of the Evidence: 2010, the Breast Cancer Fund notes that the increasing incidence of breast cancer over these decades paralleled the proliferation of synthetic chemicals. Approximately 85,000 synthetic chemicals are registered today in the United States, and it is estimated that 1,000 or more new chemicals are synthesized each year. Complete toxicological screening data are available for just 7 percent of these chemicals. More than 90% of them have never been tested for their effects on human health. That’s an awful lot of substances to be exposed to that could be harming us without our knowledge or consent.

That’s why health advocates are encouraging consumers to shun pesticides, remove outdoor shoes before entering their homes, choose fragrance- and toxin-free products, use baby bottles and water bottles that are free of a carcinogenic chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA), and lobbying for stricter laws as well as more research.

Our rising “body burden” is cause for serious concern, not just because of the increased risk for cancer in general, but because of a whole host of health problems that might be linked to it. Scientists say women are especially sensitive to synthetic chemicals because these substances can interfere with female hormone cycles, and because they adhere to body fat that is more prevalent in women than in men. And a growing number of studies demonstrate that chemical exposures during the prenatal period through adolescence can have profound lifelong impacts on breast tissue development and susceptibility to cancer later in life.

There are a lot of substances that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Many of these exposures are out of our control, but there are also many we can control. Now, more than ever before, it has become imperative that we do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our children from future harm! What will you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?