Breast Cancer & Asbestos

Breast cancer is known to occur in 12% of U.S. women and in about 1 in 883 men. It has been linked to many environmental and genetic factors. Between 2013 and 2017, the overall death rate from breast cancer has steadily decreased by 1.3% each year as a result of advances in treatment and increased screening which has led to earlier detection. Despite these advances, U.S. women have a higher death rate from breast cancer than they do from any other cancer (excluding lung cancer). 

The Prevalence of the Problem

In 2020, an estimated 270,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 48,530 new cases of non-invasive cancer are expected to be diagnosed. There are a variety of factors which include gender, age, family history, genetic factors, early onset of menstruation.

There are also a variety of environmental factors which may play a role in development of breast cancer. Notably, asbestos fibers have been linked to breast cancer. While the evidence for this is minimal, a possible link has been suggested.

An Uncertain Correlation:

While researchers propose there may be a link between asbestos exposure and development of breast cancer, studies have not shown significance.

A Hypothesis Surrounding It

Researchers have set out to find the relationship between asbestos exposure and development of breast cancer by examining the lymphatic flow from chest to lungs. Under this hypothesis, it is proposed that asbestos fibers may infiltrate the lungs and eventually reach the breast tissue, ultimately causing cancer. 

There are also some proposed factors which may lessen risk for developing breast cancer. These modifiable risk factors include low-fat diet, exercise, limiting alcohol, not smoking, and exposure to estrogen.