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  • What is breast cancer?
    • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. Breast cancer will develop in approximately one in eight women during their lifetime. The incidence of this disease is decreasing, primarily among women older than 50 years. This disease usually occurs in women but men can have breast cancer too.

  • How is breast cancer related to the environment?
    • Only about 47% of breast cancers that occur in the United States can be attributed to established risk factors. While animal studies indicate that environmental contaminants can cause breast tumors, clear links between environmental exposures (other than ionizing radiation) and human breast cancer have not been established.

      Exposure to chemicals such as poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), benzene, and organic solvents and passive smoking have been suspect in causing breast cancer, but the evidence is weak and more research is needed. Pesticides and industrial products concern researchers because of their presence in the environment, their ability to be absorbed by fat, and their potential to act as endocrine disruptors. An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that, when absorbed into the body, either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body's normal functions. Overall, previous studies do not support an association between these chemicals and breast cancer.

  • What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
    • The exact causes of breast cancer are unknown; however, women that are in certain categories are at increased risk for breast cancer. Known risk factors include:
      * Older age
      * White race
      * Obesity (after menopause)
      * Dense breast tissue (after menopause)
      * High estrogen levels
      * Unusually tall
      * Early onset of menstruation
      * Later age pregnancy
      * Having no or few children
      * Late onset of menopause
      * Family history of breast cancer
      * Certain genetic mutations
      * Certain types of benign breast disease
      * History of breast cancer
      * Post-menopausal hormone use
      * Heavy alcohol consumption
      * Cigarette smoking
      * Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke
      * Current or recent use of birth control pills
      * Low levels of physical activity
      * Never breast feeding or short duration of breast feeding

  • How can you prevent breast cancer?
    • Breast self-examinations and breast examinations and mammograms conducted by healthcare professionals increase the chances that breast cancer will be diagnosed early. Among women who have higher than average risk, certain drugs may help prevent breast cancer. All women should discuss their risk and screening or prevention options with their healthcare provider.

Last Revised: March 26, 2012


Data Query

Female Breast Cancer Data:
Access the female breast cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking