Program Focuses on Breast Cancer Prevention Strategies

Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program will focus on racially and ethnically diverse communities and expand the study of risk factors.

Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program will focus on racially and ethnically diverse communities and expand the study of risk factors.

The Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) is launching a new phase of its organization that focuses on prevention at the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers funded by grants will now work across scientific disciplines, involve new racially and ethnically diverse communities, and expand the study of risk factors that lead to breast cancer, such as breast density.

The decision to focus on prevention came from recommendations made by the Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC) in 2013.

IBCERCC was congressionally mandated to review the state of the science around breast cancer and environmental influences by the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act.

Suggestions included prioritizing prevention, involving transdisciplinary research teams, engaging public stakeholders, collaborating across federal agencies, and communicating the science to the public.

These efforts will add to the growing knowledge of environmental and genetic risk factors that relate to breast cancer over the lifespan. There are 6 new projects by BCERP plus a new coordinating center promoting cross-project collaboration, and all projects involve strong partnerships between researchers and organizations focused on breast cancer prevention or environmental health.

“The beauty of this research is that scientific discoveries and community observations inform each other, in order to dive deeper into the complex causes of breast cancer,” said Gwen Collman, PhD, director of NIEHS Division of Etramural Research and Training.

With a focus on minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged women, researchers hope to find out more about the disparities in breast cancer outcomes. While African American women are diagnosed less than white women with breast cancer, more aggressive forms of cancer and cancer death are more likely to occur in African American women.

Breast cancer density is another topic of focus for BCERP as a possible intermediate risk factor for breast cancer. Dense breast tissue is one of the most common risk factors for breast cancer, and identifying links between environmental factors and high breast density may provide new insights into prevention.

“These priorities reflect our continued commitment to breast cancer prevention,” said Caroline Dilworth, PhD, BCERP program lead at NIEHS. “Our goal is to build on the high quality science we’ve been funding for more than a decade, while also being responsive to the expert recommendations of the IBCERCC report.”