Title: Barriers and opportunities for breast cancer organizations to focus on environmental health and disease prevention: a mixed-methods approach using website analyses, interviews, and focus groups.
Authors: Ohayon, Jennifer Liss; Nost, Eric; Silk, Kami; Rakoff, Michele; Brody, Julia Green
Published In Environ Health, (2020 02 10)
Abstract: Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide and most cases are not due to high risk inherited genes. In response, breast cancer activists successfully advocated for innovative research on environmental chemical exposures as a possible cause. Since then, new evidence supports hypotheses that common industrial and consumer chemicals are linked to the disease, and expert panels recommend reducing exposures. We evaluated whether these research results and recommendations are translated back into the work of breast cancer organizations and what barriers and opportunities influence their ability to focus on environmental factors.We used a Python script to evaluate the frequency of environmental terms on the websites of 81 breast cancer organizations (> 14,000 associated URLs) and conducted two focus groups and 20 interviews with leaders of breast cancer organizations. We also analyzed the frequency of terms on two trusted, national cancer websites.40% of organizations include information on environmental chemicals on their websites, but references are infrequent and rarely cite specific chemicals of concern. Most organizations (82%) discuss other risk factors such as exercise, diet, family history, or genetics. From interviews and focus groups, we identified four types of barriers to addressing environmental chemicals: 1) time and resource constraints, 2) limited knowledge of the state of the research and lack of access to experts, 3) difficulties with messaging, including concern that cultural and economic factors make it difficult for individuals to reduce their exposures, and 4) institutional obstacles, such as the downplaying of environmental risks by industry interests. Participants expressed the desire for easy-to-adopt educational programs and increased federal funding for scientist-advocate research partnerships.Our research underscores the need for environmental breast cancer experts and trusted cancer organizations to increase research translation activities so that breast cancer organizations can communicate new science on environmental factors in their online and in-person work. Moreover, our research highlights how most groups are focusing on providing resources to diagnosed women, including addressing problems with healthcare access, which displaces their ability to work on breast cancer prevention.
PubMed ID: 32041648
MeSH Terms: Breast Neoplasms/prevention & control*; Environmental Health*; Female; Focus Groups*; Health Services Accessibility/statistics & numerical data*; Humans; Internet*; Interviews as Topic*; Primary Prevention/methods*