US shortchanging breast cancer prevention: report
By Randy Lee Loftis, MCTDALLAS, Texas -- The nation is critically shortchanging efforts to prevent new generations of Americans from getting breast cancer, including neglecting vital research into environmental factors, a major federal report released Tuesday said.
February 14, 2013, 12:36 am TWN
The report, which Congress mandated in 2008, presents the clearest call yet for making prevention equal to treatment in the fight against breast cancer, which kills 44,000 Americans a year.
“We call for all hands on deck,” said Michele R. Forman, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Texas, Austin and chairman of the panel that wrote the report, the Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee.
A quarter-million people in the U.S. were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and experts predict a higher number of new cases in 2013, the report said.
But preventing new cases is getting only 10 percent of research money, with the bulk of current science devoted to treatment, the report said. Prevention, the panel said, will require intensive environmental investigations.
“The recommendations of this committee highlight the urgent need for coordinated, targeted efforts to identify and mitigate the environmental causes of breast cancer,” Jeanne Rizzo, a subcommittee chairman, told reporters during a telephone news conference.
Medically, environment means any outside influence on the body — chemical exposures, smoking, alcohol, diet, radiation, and family, cultural or societal factors that could increase risk.
Rizzo, president and chief executive officer of the Breast Cancer Fund, based in San Francisco, also called for policies toward cleaner neighborhoods and consumer products and a reduction in minority neighborhoods' disproportionate share of pollution.
Through a spokeswoman, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declined a request for comment on the call to action on preventing breast cancer. “We look forward to reviewing the report,” spokeswoman Tait Sye wrote in an email.
The report is on the website of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, an HHS division, although a disclaimer in the report notes that the findings might not reflect government policy.
At least a dozen HHS employees, including senior officials, either served on the committee or helped in the report's preparation.
The committee includes university researchers, federal officials, advocates from nonprofit groups and health care professionals. It began work in September 2010.