The public health burden of breast cancer and other reproductive illness in California is immense. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in California. However, women are not affected equally by the disease as there are significant racial/ethnic differences in incidence and mortality. While the rate of new breast cancer diagnoses have historically been highest among White women, rates in Black women has been rising and rates are now converging with those of White women. Mortality remains highest among Black women, who on average, are diagnosed at younger ages and have more aggressive forms of the disease. New breast cancer diagnoses and mortality rates are lower among Latinas; however, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Latinas.
Environmental factors, including chemical exposures, may play an important role in the development of diseases like breast cancer. We understand today that the majority of breast cancer risk can be attributed to factors that may be modifiable, and not just genetics. This raises important questions about what these factors may be and the possibility of creating interventions. There is a need to identify and eliminate environmental hazards that may be contributing to health disparities among California women.
Chemicals found in consumer products could be an important source chemical exposures. These have been a little considered source of harm to our health and may contribute to health disparities. Commonly used consumer products can contain hormone disruptors endocrine disrupting chemicals (e.g., cosmetics or air fresheners), mammary gland carcinogens (e.g., cleaners and pesticides) and/or chemicals that affect how the mammary gland develops mammary gland toxicants (e.g. stain repellents and plastics).