Wednesday evening area residents were invited to the Skaneateles Fire Department to hear a presentation that related pesticides, plastics, lipstick and firehouses.
"What you hear here take with you," said Cynthia McBain, a member of the American Association of University Women.
Associate Director of Translational Research at Cornell University Suzanne Snedeker spoke to the crowded room about breast cancer and environmental risk factors and how everyday products have the potential to cause cancer.
"Breast cancer is a really complex disease," Snedeker said, adding that it is also one of the better researched diseases. "How many menstrual cycles you have in your life is a one-to-one correlation to breast cancer."
Risk factors for the cancer include, but are not limited to, gender, genetics, diet, being overweight post-menopausal, late menopause and a variety of chemicals.
"People have a perception that it's the factory up on the hill, not what's under your sink," Snedeker said.
However, breast tissue is a network of several "pipes" and gradual abnormal changes in the tissues over many years makes it difficult to study the cancer. A single mutation can contribute to the initiation of cancer, Snedeker said.
On the environmental end of breast cancer, scientists are interested in how long a woman has been exposed to cancers causing agents and the source of the exposure. As a way to try to figure it all out, scientists use a variety of methods such as double blind studies, comparing exposure in cancer cases to control (non-cancer) subjects and mortality studies in workplace populations.
Early life exposure to insecticides such as DDT and DDE, which were developed during World War II to fight off malaria carrying insects and then later to control the boll weevil in cotton, was shown to cause a greater risk for cancer in children from birth to 14 years old.