Metastasizing Effects of Racism in Breast Cancer Risk

Article Author: Shreya Manikandan, Public Health Major, Class of 2026, POB Science Translator 

Recent research highlights that structural racism is an omnipresent part of society that can determine an individual’s health, and that your demographic could predestine your breast cancer risk. According to the 2022 journal article “Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Breast Cancer: Disparities in Exposure and Importance of Research Inclusivity,” breast cancer incidence rates are different among racial groups due to numerous factors such as access to healthcare, health literacy, personal care products, income, or diet.  

In conjunction with all of these mentioned factors, the authors highlighted research inclusivity: encouraging and promoting representation in diversity within medical and research careers can catalyze bridging the gap between demographic differences. In other words, medical research should encompass all demographics for more widespread accuracy. 

The journal article also provides an example of industries unfairly affecting minority and low-income areas with the locations of their hazardous waste sites, leading to long-term health effects out of the control of citizens. Known as redlining, the systemic segregation of communities based on income disproportionately affects people of color, meaning they often compose the population living in industrialized areas near factories. They found that PFAS  (known widely as the “forever chemicals”) are released into communities from waste water runoff and air pollution which ultimately increases cancer risk. The journal article illuminates a crucial statistic: The Environmental Protection Agency has a limit set for 70 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water. However, a 2016 study of drinking water across the United States found some communities have drinking water with PFAS concentrations that greatly exceeds this regulation. This issue is widespread across the country especially in industrial atmospheres, which are unfairly located in higher quantities around low-income areas. This disparity in water quality leads to higher breast cancer risk since it is an access issue. 

 In addition, many simple choices, consciously made or externally controlled, have a lasting effect on breast cancer risk. On an individual consumer level, parabens, another EDC, affect people of color greater since they have textured hair, entailing a higher usage of personal hair care products, increasing their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. The 2022 journal article outlines that The Norwegian Women and Cancer cohort discovered that moderate-to-frequent users of beauty products had a 10-15% higher breast cancer risk than those of low usage. 

So, how can we make a change? At Protect Our Breasts, we emphasize the mission of prevention of breast cancer.  We can continue to look out for common EDCs in personal care products. We can make conscious choices to benefit ourselves: safer alternatives exist everywhere! Here are some strategies to lower your EDC exposure: (1) Read labels on personal care products and ensure common EDCs such as phthalates and parabens are absent. (2) Ensure that you are using glass or stainless steel instead of plastics (3) Don’t leave plastic packaged products in warm areas since chemicals could seep into the product itself (4) Opt to use filtered water rather than tap or bottled water. Though this is a daunting issue, being conscious about consumption is the best prevention! For more information and tips on making safer consumer choices, follow the Protect Our Breasts website and social media! 

Source: Santaliz Casiano, A., Lee, A., Teteh, D., Madak Erdogan, Z., & Treviño, L. (2022). Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Breast Cancer: Disparities in Exposure and Importance of Research Inclusivity. Endocrinology, 163(5), bqac034. 


Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites. POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.

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