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The BCERF program on the Cancer Risks of Environmental Chemicals in the Home and Workplace closed on March 31, 2010. No further updates will be made to this web site. Please go Cornell University’s eCommons web site to access BCERF’s archived research and educational materials (

Obesity and Breast Cancer: An Environmental Approach
BCERF Research Project

Over the last twenty years, the levels of overweight and obesity in the United States have increased to epidemic proportions. Obesity has been linked to a substantial increase in the relative risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. This risk is increased with greater body weight and may be decreased as levels of obesity are reduced. Preventing overweight and obesity can potentially contribute to lower levels of breast cancer risk.

A number of factors contribute to obesity including genetics, behavior, environment, and culture. Nonetheless, current consensus is that the ongoing epidemic appears to stem from recent changes in our environment encouraging overeating and discouraging physical activity. Excess calories consumed but not used ultimately lead to weight gain.

The BCERF project, Building Capacity to Address Obesity to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk in Rural Communities: An Environmental Approach, will provide tools and strategies for communities to use in a comprehensive, integrated approach to obesity prevention. As a result of this work, health professionals, extension educators, community leaders, and the public will increase their understanding of the relationship between overweight and obesity and breast cancer risk and will improve their capacity to take an environmental approach to breast cancer risk reduction through obesity prevention in their community.

This pilot project began in 2004 with an environmental needs assessment in one rural New York State community. The project continues this year with a critical evaluation of the built and social environments and possible relationships to overweight, obesity, and breast cancer. Working jointly with a leadership team from the pilot community, strategies are being developed for locally relevant and sustainable policies and activities to combat the rising rates of obesity and reduce the risk of breast and other cancers. A step-by-step guide to the community intervention process is available for use by other communities interested in an environmental approach to obesity prevention for breast cancer risk reduction.

For more information on this project contact Carol Devine, Barbour Warren, or Mary Maley. You can also call or email BCERF at or (607) 254-2893.

Funding to support this BCERF project is provided by the US Department of Agriculture/ Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.