SAN FRANCISCO — More research needs to be directed at learning more about the possible link between breast cancer and the environment, panelists told state lawmakers Wednesday.
But some also cautioned that one proposed method of that research that legislators heard testimony on — monitoring breast milk for toxins — needs to be conducted without hurting efforts to get more women to breast-feed their babies.
The panelists, a collection of healthcare professionals and representatives of organizations that fight breast cancer, spoke to the state Senate and Assembly health committees.
Breast cancer rates in the United States have increased from one in 22 in the 1940s to one in eight today, and the factors that are known to increase the risk of breast cancer — reproductive history, genetics, exercise and alcohol use — account for less than half of all cases, said Dr. Ana Soto, a professor at Tufts University.
“This swift increase cannot be attributed to genetic causation,” she said. “Yet, the genetic causes of cancer continue to be the main topic of study in breast cancer research.”
One way to monitor how toxins accumulate in the body and possibly cause cancer is to test breast milk. Similar monitoring is done using urine and blood, but because breast tissue is fatty and breast milk is high in fat, certain chemicals collect there that don’t collect as well in urine or blood.
But the testing does have its limitations.