Environmental exposures and breast cancer risk

By Jayla Burton, Program Manager

With your help we have continued to put pressure on the leading cancer agency, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to revise and clarify the connection between environmental exposures and breast cancer.
 
Our work to calling for transparency from the NCI started out as a Think Before You Pink® campaign. Thanks to your continued engagement, this work has not let up, and we have another response from the NCI.
 
Here are the latest updates on the campaign, an overview of how the NCI’s recent updates undermine the very scientific principles that guide many of our national-level regulatory and research standards, and the NCI’s most recent response:

  • On the NCI’s breast cancer prevention webpage, the agency’s recent revisions are misleading and suggest there isn’t enough evidence to connect chemicals in the environment to breast cancer risk.
  • The revisions also state that a chemical that causes cancer in laboratory animals may not cause cancer in people, but it ignores the fact that many chemicals that cause cancer in laboratory animals do cause cancer in people. Laboratory tests on animals often yield important and widely accepted red flags that are the basis for chemical regulations, for example to ensure safety of drinking water. Currently these laboratory studies remain the best method for identifying potential human carcinogens in order to make rational decisions about exposure safety.

After seeing these revisions, many of you joined our escalated action to the NCI, looping in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). We told them the NCI’s revisions are a disservice to people living with and at risk of breast cancer, and are convoluting some of our most foundational scientific principles.
 
The NCI just recently responded to our escalated action, and again gave an inadequate response, emphasizing their agency only reviews and summarizes human studies. When it comes to evaluating environmental exposures and breast cancer risk it is clear the NCI is ignoring multiple streams of evidence. Turning a blind eye to the problems of environmental exposures will most directly harm individuals of lower socioeconomic status and communities of color, people who are disproportionately exposed to and impacted by chemicals in the environment that may increase breast cancer risk.
 
The nation’s leading cancer agency refusing to use the best possible method for identifying human carcinogens is unacceptable and scandalous. They are doubling down on a bad approach, and acting as if their authority as a government agency excuses that.
 
Thank you for taking action with us throughout this campaign and on behalf of people living with and at risk of breast cancer. It is only through the engagement of members like you that the NCI can’t ignore this important issue. Our staff is continuing to meet with key scientists and government leaders to demand real, meaningful, change from the NCI.
 
Your voices are powerful, and our collective action has the potential to change how our government views the science on breast cancer risk. For more information on how this work started visit our website, where we’re tracking the latest updates on this issue.
 
We will work fearlessly to ensure the NCI works just as hard as we do to address and end breast cancer. Stay tuned!

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