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More research urged on breast cancer prevention

Breast cancer rates continue to rise in the United States — even beyond the extra cancers detected through mammography and other screening techniques — and researchers need to focus more of their attention on finding ways to prevent the cancer including identifying environmental causes. That recommendation was made in a 270-page report issued Tuesday by the federal government’s Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee.

The expert panel from the National Cancer Institute and elsewhere lamented that research into identifying causes of breast cancer, including the role of certain hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastics, has lagged far behind advances in diagnosis and treatment. What is known: Both genes and lifestyle factors — such as obesity, excess alcohol consumption, dense breasts, lack of exercise, and radiation exposure — can contribute to breast cancer risk.

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But researchers still don’t fully understand how those things interact with each other to influence a woman’s likelihood of developing a malignancy, especially one that will spread quickly and potentially kill her.

What’s needed is better coordination among researchers and increased research funding, according to the report.

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