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Environmental Impact of Breast Cancer

Author: Nikki Jiang

Editor: Yanxi Chen and Ivan Feng

Artist: Tiffany Chen

You may have heard many warnings regarding your daily habits, favorite foods, or potential cancer risks. But how much of that is true? Does eating junk food increase your chances of developing cancer? Or is it just a hoax your parents made up to avoid the McDonald’s drive-through? Cancer is a very complicated and rapidly developing disease, making it difficult to understand. Many are aware of cancer as a fatal illness or know someone who had unfortunately contracted it. In a CBS poll, 54% of the sample knew someone in their family who was diagnosed with cancer. It is a prevalent disease that affected an estimated 18.1 million people in 2020, 12.5% of which were breast cancer cases. There are many causes of cancer, and the environment has a significant influence.

There are many parts of the breast where tumors may grow uncontrollably. When the cancer cell gets into the blood or the lymph system within the breast, it can spread throughout the body. The lymph system is a major component of the immune system; lymph fluid contains waste products and immune system cells. With breast cancer, lymph vessels in the breast drain into other lymph nodes, creating an opportunity for the cancerous cells to move around freely.

Exposure to radiation, alcohol, weight, genetic mutations, and activity levels are all factors that influence the development of cancer. Recently, credible evidence has linked chemicals in our environment to the growth of breast cancer. Industrialization resulted in the release of mass amounts of synthetic chemicals by factories. These harmful chemicals then remain in our environment and on everyday items. A study from 2007 identifies 216 harmful chemicals which lead to mammary tumors in animals, half of which are ones that we are exposed to in our everyday lives. Among those 216 chemicals. 73 have been present in food, 35 in air pollutants, and 25 have been found in the workplace. Research on the mechanisms of these chemicals revealed that chemicals damage DNA, causing uncontrolled cell division by mimicking hormones and giving rise to tumors. In particular, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), identified by a study in 2003 conducted by Silent Spring, are widely used in consumer products, building materials, furniture, and much more. Incorporating EDCs into our everyday lives has caused them to be a significant source of indoor air pollutants.

Modern experts emphasize how understanding the effects of chemical pollutants can help us reduce our exposure to them and prevent cancer development. This knowledge enables us to understand the side effects of modern society, especially how our pollutants and lifestyle choices can have devastating effects on our health.



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