Think you don't need to worry about breast cancer if no one if your family has it? Think again. Most women who get breast cancer have none of the known risk factors, detailed on the American Cancer Societys website: family history, genetic mutations, early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after age 55), and previous breast biopsies or chest radiation. Instead, their breast cancer may be due to a combination of controllable factors, such as being overweight, not exercising, taking hormone replacement therapy, and drinking an excess of alcohol.
One risk the ACS website barely mentions is that posed by certain "environmental estrogens," chemicals that are thought to act in concert with your body's own supply of estrogen to fuel the growth of breast tumors. Yet a growing number of cancer experts believe there's now enough evidence of a link to recommend that women reduce their exposure to these chemicals. Suzanne Snedeker, associate director of Cornell University's program on breast cancer and environmental risk factors, feels so strongly that women should take action that she has put together a series of videos telling us exactly what to do. "It's ironic that breast cancer patients end up getting treatments that work against estrogen," she explains, "but we don't tell women about what's estrogenic in the environment and how to avoid excess estrogen in the first place."
Although women are exposed to a very low level of these chemicals in any particular product, Snedeker says that collectively, the exposures could increase our breast cancer risk. And researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have documented widespread exposure to a variety, including bisphenol-A (found in hard plastics and the lining of cans), nonylphenol (found in cleaning products) and benzophenones (found in sunblocks, perfumes, soaps, and printer toner). Check out the video on cosmetics to see what to avoid in makeup products. Watch the video on plastics to see how to steer clear of bisphenol-A and the one on what goes down the drain to see what detergents are safer to use and how to dispose of old electronics.
I'll say this: After watching these videos, I am not going to apply moisturizers that contain "placental extracts," won't heat any plastic plates in my microwave, and am no longer going to throw my printer cartridges in the trash.