Breast Health and Early Life Exposures

July 21, 2011
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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A recent review published in Environmental Health Perspectives reports the conclusions of an international workshop on the current science related to early-life environmental exposures and mammary gland development. The Mammary Gland Evaluation and Risk Assessment Workshop met in Oakland, California, in November 2009. More than 60 international experts, including biologists, epidemiologists, toxicologists, physicians, public health officials and breast cancer activists reviewed the evidence from animal and human studies of environmental toxicants and breast development. Workshop scientists concluded that chemical exposures during critical periods of development may influence breast growth, ability to breastfeed and cancer risk.

This call was cohosted by CHE Fertility, CHE Cancer and CHE Breast Cancer, and addressed the current state of the science on environmental exposures and breast health with article authors Ruthann Rudel of the Silent Spring Institute, Suzanne Fenton of the National Toxicology Program, and Susan Makris of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. The authors presented findings on some of the chemicals that affect breast development, including bisphenol A (BPA), atrazine, dioxin, PBDEs, PFOA, dibutylphthalate (DBP) and nonylphenol. Drs. Fenton and Makris delved into the regulatory implications of the workshop findings.

Featured Speakers

Ruthann RudelRuthann Rudel, MS, directs research programs on toxicology and exposure assessment at Silent Spring Institute, an independent not-for profit environmental research organization focused on women's health.   In this role she has directed the Institute's Household Exposure Studies of endocrine disrupting chemicals, which the journal Environmental Science & Technology described as the “most comprehensive analysis to date” of exposures in homes. Her toxicology research is focused on how chemical safety testing can identify exposures that could increase breast cancer risk.   For example, she developed a list of 216 chemicals that cause mammary tumors in animal studies for a major review published in the journal Cancer, and she recently completed a new review of chemicals that alter breast development, possibly leading to increased susceptibility to cancer and difficulty breast feeding.

Suzanne FentonSuzanne Fenton, PhD, is the Group Leader for the Mammary Gland Development/Lactation Biology Laboratory of the Reproductive Endocrinology Group at the National Toxicology Program within the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences. The Reproductive Endocrinology Group focuses on the role of environmental chemicals in breast developmental timing as it relates to puberty, increased susceptibility to breast cancer, and altered lactational ability. Dr. Fenton’s major areas of research include studying human disease using mice and rat models, translating internal dose in animal models to known exposure levels in U.S. residents, investigating the developmental effects of high use herbicides and their metabolites, other compounds such as surfactants, phenolic compounds used in food storage, and common lipophilic flame retardants and pollutants. Dr. Fenton previously worked as a principal investigator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Reproductive Toxicology Division from 1998 to 2009.

Susan MakrisSusan Makris, MS, is a toxicologist for the National Center for Environmental Assessment at the Office of Research and Development within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   Ms. Makris specializes in children’s health risk assessment, particularly in the areas of congenital abnormalities, developmental neurotoxicity and developmental immunotoxicology. Her expertise includes lifestage-specific hazard characterization of environmental toxicants, focusing on the identification of critical windows of development for observed outcomes, evaluation of differential exposure at individual lifestages, the relevance and impact of lifestage-specific toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic data, mode of action information, variability and latency of effects from early lifestage exposure, and describing uncertainties. Ms. Makris’ recent work focuses on the effects of chemicals on mammary gland development.  

This call  was co-moderated by Michael Lerner, Vice-Chair of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, and Karin Russ, CHE Fertility & Reproductive Health National Coordinator.