Epidemiologic Basis of the Role of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors in Breast Cancer

  • Robert A. Hiatt


What can be said about the role of environmental ­endocrine disruptors in breast cancer from epidemiologic studies of humans? To address this question, we define endocrine disruptors, consider their sources in the environment, document the breast cancer trends in incidence and mortality over time, place exposures in the context of “windows of susceptibility,” discuss the strengths and limitations of the epidemiologic approach in environmental studies, and review studies in humans relevant to this question across a range of endocrine disruptors. We take a life-course perspective on breast cancer etiology that encompasses the known and potential impact of environmental factors early in development and during ­“windows of susceptibility” across the life span. Such an approach presents certain challenges for human epidemiologic studies, which are discussed. However, observational epidemiologic studies, natural experiments, and novel study designs, along with toxicological and mechanistic studies using animal models, are creating a fuller picture of the role of the environment in breast cancer. Recommendations for filling gaps in our current knowledge of this topic complete the chapter.


Epidemiology Endocrine disrupting chemicals Breast cancer Environment 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CenterSan FranciscoUSA

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