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History of Zero Breast Cancer

Zero Breast Cancer is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding the causes of breast cancer through community participation in the research process. We focus on identifying environmental factors and the role they play in the initiation and progression of breast cancer during all stages of life. Our definition of the environment is broad and includes lifestyle choices, foods and nutrients, prescription drugs, as well as exposures to both natural and synthetic chemicals, toxins and contaminants. We believe the opportunity to prevent breast cancer by altering environmental factors is very promising.

Francine Levien founded the organization in 1995 with a small but committed group of women, all with breast cancer, who were concerned about the high incidence rates of invasive breast cancer in Marin County. Zero Breast Cancer continues to exist because we believe the current incidence rates in Marin County as well as the San Francisco Bay Area remain unacceptably high.

In less than a decade, Zero Breast Cancer has grown from a local grassroots organization to a national leader in conducting community-based participatory research, educating and placing the results of both local and national breast cancer research into the hands of women and the community so that these findings can inform personal and public decision-making processes.

With community involvement, Zero Breast Cancer conducted the first breast cancer study in Marin County, the Adolescent Risk Factor Study and the Development of Breast Cancer (1997-2002), which looked at whether adolescent experiences and exposures are different between women who have breast cancer and those who have not. The Adolescent Risk Factor Study has generated further studies that have advanced our understanding of tumor histology (2003); geographic variability (2004), the role early childhood stressors may play in breast cancer (2005) and DNA analysis of a variety of SNP markers (2006). In an effort to disseminate the findings of this study and others focused on adolescence and the prevention of breast cancer, the Adolescent Breast Cancer Prevention, Risk Reduction and Education Project (2003-2006) was initiated.

As part of our Diverse Communities Outreach Program (2003-2004), Zero Breast Cancer built relationships, partnerships and collaborations with diverse groups and organizations in Marin (Marin City and the Canal), created a Community Advisory Panel that reflects and represents Marin’s diversity and coordinated two meetings of the members to share ideas, discuss current research and identify future areas of research, education and public policy advocacy. The Diverse Communities Outreach Program expanded as a result of our participation in the Bay Area Breast Cancer and Environment Research Center (2004-2010) to include Bay View Hunters Point and East Oakland.

Zero Breast Cancer has made a difference and we expect to continue to make a difference in the San Francisco Bay Area. Five of the projects we are currently involved in, The Bay Area Breast Cancer and Environment Center (2004-2010), The Prospective Study of Breast Cancer Survivorship (2005-2010), Exposures to Serpentinites: A Contributing Environmental Factor (2005-2006), residential histories and excess risk for breast cancer (2006-2007) and the Adolescent Prevention, Risk Reduction and Education Program (2003-2006), offer realistic hope that by working together we will discover ways to reduce breast cancer incidence in the next generation and to prevent breast cancer recurrences in this present generation of women.


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