High-Risk Exposure and Breast Cancer

High-Risk Exposure and Breast Cancer

Some environmental exposures may increase a patient’s risk for developing breast cancer. They may result from a medical treatment, an occupational hazard, a chosen habit, or living in a region with toxic chemicals.

Medical Treatment Risks

  • DES exposure in utero
  • Radiation therapy to the chest in women under 29 for the following;


  • Prolonged hormonal replacement therapy, including bio-identical hormones, following natural menopause
  • Risk increases with combined estrogen-progesterone use after 3 years and increases as length of use increases
  • Medications that depress the immune system (for example, steroids and methotrexate)
  • Transplant patients
  • Patients with inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis and arthritis

Occupational Hazards

  • Chemical exposure to such agents as benzenes, pesticides, and formaldehyde
  • Radiation exposure
  • Nuclear scientists
  • Nuclear plant employees
  • Nightshift work

Chosen Habit

  • High-calorie diet with insufficient exercise
  • Morbid obesity (Fat tissue produces estrogen at levels that can mimic taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause and increase a person’s risk for developing breast cancer.)

Toxic Living Environment

  • Well water contaminated with chemicals

More research needs to be devoted to the field of environmental risk factors in developing breast cancer. While we may not be able to live in a “bubble,” we can promote healthy lifestyles to affect what we can control: water safety, toxic chemical exposure, and the choice to not smoke.