The Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) is a joint effort co-funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The program supports a multidisciplinary network of scientists, clinicians, and community partners to examine environmental and genetic factors underlying breast cancer risk over women’s lifespan.

BCERP began in 2003 with the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers (BCERC). The program was launched to address the need for research on breast cancer prevention. To date, the vast majority of breast cancer research is focused on early detection and treatment rather than on what causes the disease and what are effective prevention strategies.  At most, only 14 percent of the NCI’s budget, the nation’s leading funder of cancer research, is directed toward research on environmental factors, and only 5 percent of its funding for breast cancer research goes toward prevention.

Now in its third phase, BCERP continues to pursue the original overarching goal of investigating the influences of environmental exposures on breast cancer risk, while expanding the investigation to include windows of susceptibility, such as puberty and pregnancy. In addition, BCERP investigators are looking at intermediate markers of breast cancer risk, such as breast density.

BCERP-funded projects incorporate a trans-disciplinary approach, involving collaborations between different scientific disciplines to address a common research question. Each BCERP project is comprised of a biology study, a human study, and a community engagement component. The six newest BCERP projects, which include a new coordinating center promoting cross-project collaboration, all involve strong partnerships between researchers and community organizations focused on breast cancer risk, prevention, or environmental health.

Funded projects: