Tackling an
environmental disease

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Primary prevention is the answer

Introducing breast cancer as an environmental disease


Information on this webpage is drawn from our 2005 report: Breast cancer - an environmental disease: the case for primary prevention, available free as a pdf, see Downloads. For current statistics and data, see our homepage.

'Breast Cancer: an environmental disease' has been produced as a:

'Breast cancer: an environmental disease' sets out to Breast cancer is the major cancer affecting women and the most common cancer in the UK. It kills more than one thousand women each month. With a steady rise in new cases year on year, the chance of a woman contracting the disease in her lifetime rose from 1 in 12 to 1 in 9 in the five-year period 1996-2001. Earlier and improved detection accounts for only a limited number of cases in this rising trend. In any one year, breast cancer can affect almost a quarter of a million women in the UK. For example, in 2004 there were 44,659 new diagnoses, 12,509 deaths and around 175,000 women living with diagnoses made in the previous ten-year period.
(Sources: Cancer Research UK & Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2007)

The social, psychological and economic impacts on women, their families, friends and colleagues are incalculable, as are the healthcare and support costs borne by society.

Fewer than 50% of breast cancer cases can be attributed to officially recognised, 'established' and 'probable' risk factors which are understood to increase a woman's susceptibility to breast cancer e.g. late onset of menopause, body weight, diet, late-age pregnancy. Only two risk factors ionizing radiation and inherited genetic damage are known to directly cause the disease.

However, a vast number of animal, human, laboratory and field studies, dating from the 1930s, continue to provide incontrovertible evidence for the role of man-made environmental agents in human diseases such as breast cancer. These are agents that can be reduced, modified or eliminated.

Notes: The UK includes England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. These four countries are represented throughout this resource. The content also applies in general to other countries, for example, the Republic of Ireland.

References from American sources are exact and will therefore contain different spelling for key words, for example oestrogen (estrogen), foetal (fetal), behaviour (behavior).

Any text within square [] brackets has been inserted to clarify meaning.


contact us | about us | a campaign of Breast Cancer UK reg. charity number: 1138866 in England & Wales; reg. company number: 7348408|
Reg. address: Breast Cancer UK Ltd, Solva, Southwick Road, Denmead, Waterlooville, Hants. PO7 6LA UK | last updated: 05/10/2006