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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Feb;110 Suppl 1:119-28.

Perspectives on the chemical etiology of breast cancer.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry (GWC), University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Multiple factors, known and unknown, contribute to human breast cancer. Hereditary, hormonal, and reproductive factors are associated with risk of breast cancer. Environmental agents, including chemical carcinogens, are modifiable risk factors to which over 70% of breast cancers have been attributed. Polymorphisms of drug-metabolizing enzymes may influence risk of breast cancer from environmental chemicals, dietary agents, and endogenous steroids. The environmental factors discussed in this review include pollutants, occupational exposures, tobacco smoke, alcohol, and diet. Aromatic amines are discussed as potential mammary carcinogens, with a focus on heterocyclic amine food pyrolysis products. These compounds are excreted into the urine after consumption of meals containing cooked meats and have recently been detected in the breast milk of lactating women.

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