Adolescent Window of Breast Cancer Risk Explained in Award-Winning Video

By Jeffrey Norris

Girls may be vulnerable to environmental exposures that contribute to breast cancer decades later – the evidence comes from studies of Japanese atomic bomb survivors and studies of women who received radiation treatment for medical conditions when they were girls.

Rodent studies also point to radiation as a cause, but researchers and patient-advocates fighting breast cancer are investigating other cancer suspects – hormone-disrupting chemicals that get into the body, for instance.

Patient advocates have helped drive new research in this area. UCSF breast cancer researcher and cell biologist Zena Werb, PhD, is a founding member of the Bay Area Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Center (BABCERC). The center brings together researchers from UCSF and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory with advocates led by Zero Breast Cancer, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding the causes of breast cancer through community participation in the research process. Werb leads mouse studies to explore how environmental exposures affect developing mammary glands – but she also has been enlisted by advocates to help explain the research.

In this short video, Werb and breast cancer advocates discuss research goals and an award winning, 15-minute animated video, called the “The Breast Biologues,” which helps explain to a general audience what researchers want to know about breast development, environmental exposures and breast cancer. Werb was a scientific consultant for the video project.

In March “The Breast Biologues” aired in prime time on UCTV. In May, in a worldwide video competition the International Academy of the Visual Arts awarded BABCERC an Award of Distinction – one of its 2011 Communicator Awards. The video won a bronze Telly Award, in the education category, in June.

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