State Lawmakers Hold Joint Assembly-Senate Hearing To Examine Link Between Breast Cancer, Environment
A joint Assembly-Senate hearing on Wednesday examined the potential link between environmental factors, such as chemical hazards in the air, water, food and soil, and rising breast cancer rates around the Bay Area and the nation, the Contra Costa Times reports. According to Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Calif.), one in eight women nationwide will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and one in seven women in the Bay Area will develop the disease (Krupnick, Contra Costa Times, 10/24). While breast cancer rates in the nation have increased from one in 22 in the 1940s to one in eight today, "known" factors -- reproductive history, genetics, exercise and alcohol use -- account for fewer than 50% of all cases, according to Dr. Ana Sota, a Tufts University professor (Valles, AP/Fresno Bee, 10/24). Sota added that it is "high time to consider environmental chemicals the most likely cause of this sudden increase."
Participants at the hearing discussed a proposed statewide monitoring program that would research breast milk to find potentially toxic chemicals (Contra Costa Times, 10/24). Monitoring breast milk is more effective than using urine or blood samples because chemicals are more likely to collect in high-fat breast milk, the AP/Bee reports. Dr. Gina Solomon of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, "This is a way of getting a handle on what's getting into our bodies. It can give us information on who is exposed to what." She added, however, that monitoring toxins in breast milk has "its limitations" and will not tell scientists the levels of water-soluble or short-lived chemicals that have accumulated in people's bodies (AP/Fresno Bee, 10/24). Ortiz and Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) said they plan to introduce legislation at the federal and state levels next year that would seek funding for a breast-milk monitoring program (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24). The joint hearing comes after Marin County and federal health officials earlier this month announced plans to investigate the factors behind high breast cancer rates among women in Marin County, who have a 45% greater chance of developing breast cancer than women in other areas of the nation (California Healthline, 10/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.