Focusing on Preventable Causes of Breast Cancer

    [fa icon="user"] Katie Dalton [fa icon="folder-open'] Daughters, Breast Cancer Fund, Breast Cancer, BPA

    We all want the same thing

    On January 12th, 2016 in his final State of the Union address, President Obama announced a national "moon shot" effort to cure cancer, stating, “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”  You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone unwilling to get behind that cause. You’re a statistical anomaly if your life hasn’t, in some way, been touched by the disease – especially breast cancer. 

    • Excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers, breast cancer tops the charts with more than 234,000 new cases expected in the United States in 2015 (1), accounting for just under 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women (2).
    • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide(3).
    • One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime(3).

    Here’s another staggering statistic that may be a little less ingrained in your mind: 

    Known risk factors for breast cancer, which include family history, early onset of menstruation, late menopause, later or no childbirth, alcohol consumption and ionizing radiation from x-rays account for 50-70% of diagnosed cases, while the other 30-50% of cases don’t have any of those established risk factors (4).

    If we’re serious about eradicating breast cancer, we can’t ignore the other piece of the puzzle.  Enter, the Breast Cancer Fund

    The Breast Cancer Fund, a founding nonprofit partner for Savvy Women’s Alliance, is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals linked to the disease. Breast_Cancer_Risks.jpg

    They work to translate a growing body of scientific evidence linking the disease and various environmental exposures like radiation, carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals into public education and advocacy campaigns and by empowering people like you and me with practical, accessible solutions aimed at reducing breast cancer risk. 

    Connecting the dots

    I recently had an opportunity to speak with Sara Schmidt, Outreach and Organizing Manager for the Breast Cancer Fund. When I asked Sara what makes the organization’s approach to prevention unique, and she emphasized their unwavering commitment to science. Using robust data from peer-reviewed research and leveraging the experience and expertise of their Scientific Advisory Panel, the Breast Cancer Fund is able to develop sound educational outreach and policy initiatives. In today’s world of information overload, we can all appreciate how important this is. For Savvy Women’s Alliance, credibility is the foundation of leading and inspiring change.

    From the endocrine-disrupting compounds in cosmetics, household cleaners, pest control, cookware, food packaging, pesticides and dairy products, to the known carcinogens in air pollution, plastics, and certain pharmaceuticals, the Breast Cancer Fund presents compelling evidence on how chemicals impact the biology of breast cancer. But they also highlight the complexities of risk factor interaction and limitations of existing research methods. For example, most studies of chemicals’ effect on human health look at one Breast_Cancer_Fund.jpgchemical at a time, but that’s not real-life. In today’s world, we’re exposed – often at very low doses –to a barrage of chemicals and it’s those accumulations of low-dose exposures that may pose the greatest threat (5). Understanding how risk is impacted by timing of exposure during critical periods, including gestation, childhood, and pregnancy is another major priority for the Breast Cancer Fund. 

    Empowering you with practical know-how 

    The Breast Cancer Fund’s ability to effectively illustrate the growing scientific link between chemicals in our environment and breast cancer risk is paralleled only by their ability to translate that information into real-life tools for change.   

    From health and beauty, to consumer habits, to a healthier home, their Tips for Prevention (including downloadable Tip Cards) provide a series of simplified lifestyle upgrades and empower you with resources to not just make personal changes but educate friends and family along the way. And like Savvy Women’s Alliance, the Breast Cancer Fund encourages realistic change. What’s practical for one family might be more challenging for the next, but everyone has a low-hanging fruit from which to start. 

    Leading advocacy efforts and tackling chemical reform 

    With a quick look through the Breast Cancer Fund’s resume, one thing is clear: they’re doing something right. The organization boasts an impressive track record of successful advocacy campaigns, proving they can mobilize the public and hold government and business responsible for their impact on public health. 

    Just in the last few years, they successfully pushed to get a federal ban on toxic phthalates in toys and helped influence the state of the CA to pass safer flammability standards. They’ve inspired increased consumer demand for safer products and improved transparency, leading retail giants Walmart and Target to adopt new policies to ensure the cosmetics and cleaning products sitting on their shBCF_TCSAReformEquation_2.jpgelves are made with safer chemicals. And through their Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Breast Cancer Fund has educated consumers by exposing the thousands of harmful synthetic chemical ingredients used by the cosmetics industry and has advocated for improved legislation designed to eliminate dangerous chemicals from the market. 

    “What can I do to help?” 

    We’ve all been inundated with online petitions, but the bottom line is: your voice does matter. Write your senators and tell them we need stronger chemical policy reform. This form is already filled out for you, so it’ll take you all of five seconds! You can also help by submitting this form to your Senator, urging them to support necessary reform to the outdated Personal Care Products Safety Act.

    At the end of the day 

    Through personal, corporate, and political action, the Breast Cancer Fund is fundamentally changing the way society thinks about environmental chemical exposures and their link to the disease. They’re translating the science; championing the necessary reform; and harnessing the power inside each and every one of us to create meaningful change.


     The Savvy Path blog features one topic a month from many perspectives.  This month we are featuring BPA, also a focus of the Breast Cancer Fund.  Learn more about the basics of BPA here:

    Explore BPA-Free Ideas and Tips

    We would like to thank Katie Dalton for her commitment to education and her stellar contribution as a Savvy Women's Alliance volunteer writer. We encourage you to continue learning through more of Katie's articles: 


    1. National Cancer Institute
    2. org
    3. Breast Cancer Fund
    4. California Breast Cancer Research Program Special Research Initiatives
    5. Breast Cancer Fund
    6. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
    Katie Dalton

    Written by Katie Dalton

    Katie Dalton is an environmental health educator focused on leveraging the science of human behavior change. She’s the founder of ALO, an educational platform and blog committed to arming you with compelling, scientifically-driven information about the toxins in your everyday environment and empowering you to eliminate or reduce your exposure with practical, accessible solutions. When she’s not reading, researching, or writing she can be found doing just about anything in the great outdoors, usually with her fox red labrador in tow. Follow her on Instagram (@kt_dalton).

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