By Laura Weinberg and Lisa Levine
The Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition (GNBCC) and three North High summer interns joined advocates, researchers and students from across the country at the National Breast Cancer & Environment Research Program (BCERP) conference, which recently addressed Understanding the Link Between the Environment and Breast Cancer in Washington, DC.
Supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the 13th annual BCERP event spotlighted more than 20 presentations regarding the most current research on chemicals and heavy metals that have been associated with breast cancer and are found in the environment and consumer products.
Since 2005, the GNBCC has sponsored more than 60 high school student internships at 10 laboratories in the Northeast. Three of this past summer’s interns from Great Neck North presented posters of their research at the event.
Belle Lim and Amanda Shirazi, who interned at Dr. Laura Vandenberg’s laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, and Raymond Lin, who interned at Dr. Richard Gross’s laboratory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, participated in the conference and poster session.
Lin, a junior at North, whose research partner Ethan Abizadeh, a senior at North Shore Hebrew Academy was unable to attend, developed and presented a poster of the research the duo conducted at RPI. Lin was awarded Top-Ranked Poster by Linda Birnbaum, PhD, director of NIEHS.
The poster winner’s research entailed developing a safer substance for food packaging materials in order to replace chemicals that have been linked with breast cancer and other cancers, such as formaldehyde, BPA and PFOA. Both BPA and PFOA have been shown to have estrogenic activity. BPA may be found in certain plastics with the recycled number seven, the lining of certain canned foods and the coating of thermal cash receipts. PFOA may be found in nonstick cookware and in stain-resistant products. The research topic was To Replace Toxins Linked with Breast Cancer: Applications of Sophorolipid Butyl Ester in the Stabilization of O/W Emulsions for a Novel Food Packaging Material.
The research of North High seniors Lim and Shirazi was Effects of Perinatal Exposures to Propylparaben, an Estrogenic Chemical, on Mammary Gland Development in the Mouse.
Propylparaben, a common antimicrobial agent, can be found in personal-care products and packaged foods. Lim and Shirazi’s study results suggest that the mouse mammary gland is affected by perinatal exposures to propylparaben, consistent with the effects of other estrogenic chemicals. Additional study is needed to better evaluate the effects of proplyparaben, but initial results may suggest that exposures to this chemical during early development could alter risk for mammary disease.
The GNBCC truly appreciates the participating laboratories, as well as the local high schools that were involved, including Great Neck North, Great Neck South, North Shore Hebrew Academy and Sewanhaka.