California Breast Cancer Research Program Applauds Federal Report on Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer


Lyn Dunagan

May 24, 2010—Oakland, CA—The California Breast Cancer Research Program’s investigation into the links between environmental exposures and breast cancer risk received support earlier this month, when the President’s Cancer Panel released its report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now. The federal panel acknowledged the substantial impact of environmental exposures on increased cancer risks, and they issued a comprehensive call to action to address key issues for reducing those risks. This landmark report indicates a rising national awareness of the health risks in environmental contaminants and the need for action at federal, industrial, scientific, local, and individual levels.

“The report from President’s Cancer Panel is consistent with a line of inquiry that the California Breast Cancer Research Program has been pursuing for six years,” said Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch, M.D., M.P.H., and Director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program. “We’re taking a comprehensive approach to find solutions that mitigate the environment’s role in breast cancer, reduce the disparities endured by patients, and develop ways to prevent the disease.”

In 2004, the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) identified a significant gap in knowledge about the environment’s role in breast cancer. The program then launched its Special Research Initiatives to create solutions to both the environmental causes of breast cancer and the unequal burden of the disease. These initiatives are leveraging California's unique and diverse geographic, population, and research resources to support critical studies that close the knowledge gaps and significantly move these fields forward. Several of the science advisors and advocates that were instrumental in helping the CBCRP develop its Special Research Initiatives were also involved in reporting to the President’s Cancer Panel.

“Our Special Research Initiatives and the recommendations of President’s Cancer Panel are equally focused on both rigorous scientific research and developing practical solutions,” said Kavanaugh-Lynch. “Our comprehensive approach maximizes the state’s extensive research infrastructure and resources, including expert scientists and breast cancer advocates, to generate results and solutions that will make the most impact.”

One of the Special Research Initiative projects currently underway is the Breast Cancer and Chemicals Policy Project, which is developing approaches to quickly screen chemicals for indications that they may contribute to breast cancer so that more extensive testing can be focused on those chemicals that screen positive, thus providing a practical way to resolve the backlog of the 80,000 untested chemicals in use today. Results from this project have the potential to shape both state and national chemicals policy as it relates to breast cancer.

Other ongoing Special Research Initiative projects include using California’s unique resources to identify breast cancer risk factors across the state; multi-generational studies of chemical exposures and increased breast cancer risk; disparities in the burden of breast cancer across different population groups; and developing better tools to understand how different risk factors act together to cause breast cancer.

The CBCRP will expand the Special Research Initiatives in 2011 by adding an initiative that focuses on developing population-level interventions, including policy research, on known and suspected risk factors and protective measures; and developing targeted interventions for high-risk individuals, including new methods for identifying or assessing risk.

“We’ve invested 30 percent of our annual funding for the last five years,” said Jim Ford, M.D., Director of the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Chair of the CBCRP’s Breast Cancer Research Council. “And we’re increasing our commitment to 50 percent because there’s more we need to know, and we believe in this approach. We are committed to scientific action that has the strongest potential for making the greatest impact in our quest to stop breast cancer.”

The CBCRP applauds the President’s Cancer Panel’s report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, as a launch point for many areas of research, discovery, and actions for individuals and government agencies that can be taken today to reduce cancer.

“More than anything, we want to end breast the breast cancer epidemic. Period,” said Barbara Brenner, Director of Breast Cancer Action and Vice-Chair of the CBCRP’s Breast Cancer Research Council. “In order for that to happen, we need to fill these gaps in what we know about breast cancer, and use the knowledge we have now to inform policy decisions, eliminate contaminants and exposures, and help people take action to protect themselves and others so that we can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer from occurring.”


About the California Breast Cancer Research Program:
The mission of the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) is to eliminate breast cancer by leading innovation in research, communication, and collaboration in the California scientific and lay communities.

Created by the State Legislature in 1993, the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) is the largest state-funded breast cancer research program in the nation and is administered by the University of California, Office of the President. To date, the CBCRP has awarded 894 grants to 101 scientific institutions and community entities, totaling more than $213 million for research in California to prevent, treat, and cure breast cancer. Awards include traditional investigator-initiated projects, community-based collaborative research projects, and program-directed special research initiatives. Grants from the CBCRP fill gaps not traditionally funded by other research programs to jump-start new areas of investigation that push the boundaries of research and foster new collaborations. The CBCRP is funded through the voluntary tax check-off program on personal income tax form 540, a portion of the state tobacco tax, and individual contributions. For more information, call 888 313-2277, or visit