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Scientists Zero In on 'High Priority' Chemicals That May Be Causing Breast Cancer

Scientists find breast cancer links to common chemicals
Photograph by Getty Images/Fuse

As startling as it sounds, an estimated that 12.4 percent of all women born in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point during their lives. And while you may think a lot of those cases must have to do with genetics, you'd be wrong. The truth is, only 5-10 percent of breast cancer diagnoses are the result of genetics, while 80 percent of women who develop the disease are the first in their family to ever be diagnosed. Doctors have been speculating that chemical exposure may be in fact what's causing breast cancer rates to rise, and a recent study has finally isolated chemicals they say are particularly high-risk.

According to Medical News Today, the study, which was conducted at the Silent Spring Institute in Massachusetts and just recently published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, isolated 17 different chemicals in all. According to study author Ruthann Rudel, a research director at the institute, "The study provides a road map for breast cancer prevention by identifying high-priority chemicals women are most commonly exposed to and demonstrates how to measure exposure."

So just what are these "high-priority" chemicals? Topping the list was gasoline, as well as other chemicals created by combustion (like benzene and butadiene). While you may think you only encounter these kinds of chemicals at the gas station, think again. They are often found in lawn equipment, tobacco smoke, and even burned or charred food.

Even more disturbing were some of the other mammary carcinogens that are commonly found in cleaning products. Solvents including methylene chloride and many other halogenated organic solvents are often part of industrial degreasers, specialty cleaners and spot removers.

Other harmful chemicals on the list? Most of them aren't pronounceable, but according to Medical News Today, they're all commonly found in things like flame retardants, stain-resistant textiles, hormone replacement therapies and drinking water disinfection by-products.

If reading all of that left you slightly terrified (as it did us), there are some things researchers say you can do now to reduce your risk of exposure.

  1. Limit your exposure to gasoline fumes.
  2. Limit your exposure to exhaust from vehicles or generators.
  3. Opt for an electric stove, instead of gas.
  4. Use a vent fan when cooking, if you can, and avoid eating burnt food.
  5. Avoid contact with stain-resistant rugs, fabrics and furniture.
  6. Take your shoes off at the door (and insist that all your guests do, too).
  7. Consider a vacuum that comes with a HEPA filter and clean it with a wet rag to reduce your exposure to chemicals that are inside household dust.
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