Media | Breast Cancer UK


Breast Cancer UK believes prevention is possible.

We aim to tackle the environmental and chemical causes of the disease.

We believe our exposure to the mixture of chemicals, present in many everyday products and in our environment, could be making us more vulnerable to breast cancer.

We believe far more can be done, via better public health policies and chemicals regulation, to help prevent breast cancer before it starts.

Our educational work provides practical help on how people can reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals that may be linked to breast cancer.

Key Headline Statistics

  • One in eight women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
  • One in five cases are in women aged under 50.
  • There is increasing scientific evidence that the environment in which we live is a key factor in breast cancer risk.
  • For any public health strategy to be effective, it must include cancer risks which arise from life-long, multiple exposures to environmental pollutants, even if these are present at low concentrations.
  • Breast Cancer UK is the only breast cancer charity that focuses on the environmental and chemical causes of the disease.
  • Our Ambassadors provide educational talks to communities across the UK to help people reduce their risk of exposure from the harmful chemicals linked to breast cancer.
  • Visit our Science & Research section of our website to find out more about the science behind our work and how you can take action for prevention.

Breast Cancer UK’s response to CTPA criticism of #DitchTheJunk

The information provided by our #DitchTheJunk campaign has been put together by our science team using the latest available evidence from peer reviewed journals.    The chemical compounds we cite in #DitchTheJunk are potential oestrogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals or carcinogens and therefore may be linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.  This potential link has been acknowledged in numerous peer reviewed studies.  Full references can be found in our background briefing on cosmetics and personal care products, available here.   

We acknowledge that EU cosmetics regulations are some of the best in the world but have concerns that they do not sufficiently regulate for the use of EDCs.  This is not because EDCs are absent from cosmetics, nor is it because they pose little or no risk, but because the EU has yet to publish criteria by which to identify EDCs. 

After lengthy delays, on the 4th July 2017, representatives from EU member states finally adopted a criteria for EDCs.  In its press release the European Commission state that “The adopted criteria will provide a stepping stone for further actions to protect health and environment enabling the Commission to start working on a new strategy to minimise exposure of EU citizens to endocrine disruptors, beyond pesticides and biocides. This strategy will aim to cover toys, cosmetics and food packaging as well.”(1).   Aside from the evidence we reference above, this statement itself suggests that not only are EDCs currently used in cosmetics but also that there is a need to minimise exposure to consumers via this route.

Breast Cancer UK has consistently campaigned for tougher regulations on chemicals that may increase the risk of breast cancer – this has included advocacy and lobbying on a range of problematic chemicals – not just those used in cosmetics – but  in particular on EDCs such as bisphenol A, parabens, flame retardants, phthalates and glyphosate.  

Breast Cancer UK believe that the public has a right to know what scientific research is telling us about these chemicals.  We are a breast cancer prevention charity and feel strongly that where evidence suggests these chemicals have potential links to an increased risk of the disease, they should be removed from products that women (and indeed many men) use on a daily basis and often over a whole lifetime.

Despite the considerable amount of time and effort that has gone into breast cancer research, it is still unclear what causes a high proportion of breast cancer cases. Even those at high risk, such as BRCA gene mutation carriers, will not inevitably get breast cancer. Like other breast cancer charities we seek to understand what is causing the steady increase in breast cancer incidence and there is mounting evidence that endocrine disrupting chemicals play a specific role. 

Breast Cancer UK is committed to reviewing the data on a regular basis, and if new evidence comes to light we will ensure the information on our website is updated.  However, at this current point in time, we believe there is evidence to suggest we should be concerned about using certain ingredients found in cosmetics. 

Reference: 1.


Q:  What does Breast Cancer UK do?

A:  Breast Cancer UK aims to tackle the environmental and chemical contaminants associated with breast cancer.   We believe that our exposure to cocktail of chemicals, present in many everyday products, could be affecting breast development in a way that is making us more vulnerable to breast cancer.  We believe far more can be done, via better public health policies and chemicals regulation to help prevent breast cancer before it starts. 

Q: Why are you concerned about certain chemicals?

A: Research shows that high levels of oestrogen in a woman’s body puts her at increased risk of getting breast cancer.  Some chemicals mimic oestrogen and mess up our natural hormones.  They’re known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDCs and could be increasing our risk of breast cancer.

Q: What chemicals are you concerned about? 

A:  We are exposed to thousands of chemicals on a daily basis - not all of them are harmful. Water is a chemical, oxygen is a chemical!  We are made up of chemicals.  But some chemicals can cause cancer – these are known as carcinogens and others can interfere with our hormones – these are knowns as Endocrine or hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs).  Unfortunately many everyday products continue to contain known or suspected EDCs – for example they are used in plastics, cosmetics, as preservatives in food and drink and in packaging.   Currently chemicals regulation is inadequate to help protect us against exposure to EDCs. 

Q:  What is Breast Cancer UK calling for?

A:  Breast Cancer UK wants exposure to harmful chemicals included as risk factors in the national cancer prevention strategies.  We are calling for better chemicals regulation to protect the general public from routine exposure to harmful chemicals linked to breast cancers.

Breast Cancer UK want to protect future generations from breast cancer by providing the right advice to pregnant women and parents of young children now  because evidence suggests that these early exposures could be making us more vulnerable to developing the disease later in life. 

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