Breast Cancer and Everyday Chemicals: What to Watch For

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • A new study from the non-profit Silent Spring Institute and Harvard School of Public Health identifies 17 common chemicals as possibly, even probably, being breast cancer risk factors. Is it time for you to start paying attention to the chemicals you encounter every day? 


    Are the chemicals around you – in your home, your backyard, in the air you breathe – contributing to your breast cancer risk? With each new study, scientists examining the relationship between breast cancer and environmental factors are becoming more confident in their answer: Yes.


    A just-released study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives names 17 groups of chemicals with both the strongest link to mammary tumors in rats, and the highest probability that the results of those rat studies will eventually prove valid in humans, as well.

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    And what kind of chemicals are we talking? Weed killer? Ant cups? Drano?


    Think chemicals that are more common, and deceptively benign in appearance.


    Like styrene, found in those ubiquitous white foam takeout containers and coffee cups.


    And the cleaning solvent PERC (perchloroethylene), which you’re no doubt smelled and touched and worn if you’ve ever had your wool dress or cashmere sweater dry cleaned. 


    And then there’s acrylamide – present in the dark-toasted edges of your breakfast English muffin, as well as in your seared steak and crispy, deep-brown French fries.


    Sitting in traffic during your morning commute? You’d best not crack the window for a breath of air: gasoline fumes can be dangerous to your breast health.


    Even the town or city water you drink, the stuff that comes out of your tap, the clean water you’ve always believed to be “vetted” by your town’s water department – if it contains chlorine, you’d better filter it before drinking.


    Makes you want to throw up your hands in frustration, doesn’t it? “There’s no way I can avoid all this stuff, so I might as well not even try.” 


    Well, you can’t insulate yourself entirely from your everyday environment, any more than a fish can keep itself dry. But there are steps you can take right now to potentially lower your risk of breast cancer from these everyday chemicals: check out our slide show, 7 Common Carcinogens You Should Be Avoiding.


    Study author Ruthann Rudel notes that avoiding environmental damage is especially important for teenage girls and younger women, whose breasts are still developing and are potentially more susceptible to damage.


    Whatever your age, though, think of these chemicals as secondhand smoke: you can’t avoid it entirely, but you walk away from it whenever you can.




    Koltz, D. (2014, May 14). Researchers offer ways to avoid chemicals linked to breast cancer. The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from


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    Rudel, R. (2014, May 12). New Exposure Biomarkers as Tools For Breast Cancer Epidemiology, Biomonitoring, and Prevention: A Systematic Approach Based on Animal Evidence. Retrieved from


    Silent Spring Institute | Tip Sheet: 7 Tips to Reduce Exposure to Likely Breast Carcinogens. (n.d.). Silent Spring Institute. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from


    Tasch, B. (2014, May 12). 17 Everyday Chemicals Could Be Linked to Breast Cancer. Retrieved from

Published On: June 01, 2014