Videos offer tips on reducing breast-cancer risk

June 5, 2008

Using certain plastics and cosmetics may increase the risk of breast cancer, according to emerging scientific research cited by Cornell investigators. Drinking from hard-plastic water bottles and using such personal-care products and cosmetics as shampoo, lotion and lipstick that contain certain chemicals can increase exposure to environmental estrogens that may contribute to breast-cancer risk.

To explain to young women why these everyday products should be avoided (see below), Cornell's Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors (BCERF) has produced and posted three short (up to four minutes) online videos.

"There is new evidence that even at very low levels environmental estrogens commonly found in such everyday products as cosmetics and certain plastics, as well as from environmental contaminants that get into our soil and water, can have additive effects," says Suzanne Snedeker, BCERF associate director for translational research.

Estrogen is a hormone produced by women's ovaries, but certain chemicals from everyday products can mimic estrogen's effects and can work together with the body's own estrogen to increase breast-cancer risk. In addition, most breast tumors depend on estrogen to grow.

"We know that life-long exposure to estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer. We are exposed to mixtures of many estrogenic chemicals every day. And even though these environmental estrogens are present at low levels, emerging research does suggest exposures to these chemicals can add up, and over time they may increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer," Snedeker cautions. "Yet, many of these environmental estrogens can be avoided."

For instance, heat or scratches can cause an estrogenic chemical called bisphenol A to leach out of hard plastic water bottles. Bisphenol A is found in polycarbonate plastics with recycle symbol No. 7. While bisphenol A is not found in single-use water bottles, Snedeker recommends using stainless steel water bottles as the best environmental alternative.

Chemicals are looked at individually when assessing health risks, not as mixtures of chemicals, Snedeker points out. Since estrogenic chemicals are prevalent in so many products, there is concern that there is widespread exposure from multiple sources, and collectively these estrogenic chemicals may increase the risk of breast cancer.

"The Centers for Disease Control has started to look at levels in people and for the first time is documenting widespread exposure to a number of environmental estrogens," says Snedeker. "We are targeting young women now because we now know that lifelong exposure to estrogen increases breast-cancer risk, so anything young women can do to reduce their estrogen exposure, reduces their risk."

Using live-action video and animation, the videos point out, for example, that 70 percent of breast cancers are not genetic and that breast cancer may take decades to develop, so women in their teens, 20s and 30s can make informed choices and adopt habits to significantly reduce their risk.

The videos, which were supported by the New York State Department of Health, are available at , and their Web sites offer additional information, including the science behind the recommendations. They were produced at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine by Jodi Korich, director of the Partners in Animal Health program, and her development team.

Source: Cornell University

Explore further: Shedding light on potential toxins that lurk in blood and breast milk

Related Stories

Truths and myths about breast cancer risks

January 21, 2011

Every day, science gives us new tips to help navigate our personal health journeys. With such a plethora of information available at the click of the mouse, that gold mine of knowledge can quickly feel like a maze of confusing ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 28, 2008
Thanks for the link to these important videos. Readers who are concerned about environmental estrogens such as formaldehyde in their cosmetics can go to to find which companies have joined the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. These companies have pledged not to use harmful chemicals in their products. By switching from brands that have not pledged to the Campaign (e.g., switching from Sally Hansen nail products to Nail consumers can reduce their exposure to potentially harmful products.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.