VA Adopts New Guidelines for Breast Cancer Screening

By Dr. Stacy Dunn, ND, LAc, FABNO, FABORM

In late July, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced new guidelines for breast cancer screening for women whose toxin exposure may put them at increased risk for developing breast cancer. This new policy allows women exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their service to begin breast cancer screenings and mammograms regardless of their age, symptoms, or family history. The policy change sheds light on an alarming rise in aggressive breast cancer among military veterans, particularly among younger women. [1]

The guidelines were developed in response to a growing concern regarding the health risks of burn pit exposure. Burn pits are large areas (up to 10 acres!) of open-air waste disposal used in military operations. The waste products may include trash, plastics, metal, wood, paints, solvents, ammunitions, and medical and human waste. Jet fuel (containing benzene, a known carcinogen) is typically used as the accelerant. The resulting fumes contain high volumes of toxic particulate matter (PM) in the air that includes metals, benzene, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzo-p-furans (PCDD/Fs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other known or suspected carcinogenic compounds. [2]

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ announcement regarding breast cancer in female veterans exposed to burn pits is a critical wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need for further research, support, and healthcare for those affected. It also serves as a reminder that breast cancer is a multifaceted disease influenced by a range of environmental factors, many of which we are exposed to on a daily basis.

My next article will continue the discussion by focusing on environmental carcinogens we are most commonly exposed to in our everyday lives, and how these chemicals may contribute to cancer. And I will discuss how the Riordan approach of root cause analysis provides a framework for testing and treating exposure to these compounds.

US Department of Veterans Affairs, V. H. A. (2022, March 28). Veterans Affairs. Mammogram/Breast Health.
Military burn pits and cancer risk: American cancer society. American Cancer Society | American Cancer Society. (n.d.).