PREVENTION is one of the most important ways to fight breast cancer. Unfortunately, it is not always clear how to reduce a woman’s risk, especially for the estimated 4,400 women under the age of 50 who will be diagnosed with the disease this year.
"Breast cancer in younger women is not well understood, and we don’t know a lot about the factors that increase their risk," explains Dr. Shelley Harris, a Canadian Cancer Society-funded researcher at Cancer Care Ontario in Toronto. "If we can better understand the risks, we’ll be better able to help prevent the disease."
Dr. Harris and her team are studying one potential risk factor in young women: exposure to environmental pollutants, specifically flame-retardant chemicals. With funding from the Canadian Cancer Society, Dr. Harris is studying whether there is a link between exposure to a specific group of flame retardants and increased risk of breast cancer in young women.
"There are some risk factors for breast cancer that can’t be changed, like age or family history," says Dr. Harris. "But if we can identify modifiable risk factors, we can make changes to reduce our exposures that will ultimately reduce the risk of developing cancer."