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Read about current events and research findings about breast cancer as well as Zero Breast Cancer's work in the news below. 

You can also access our newsletters HERE.

The New Puberty

new puberty bookGirls are developing faster and entering puberty earlier than a generation ago. Contrary to popular wisdom, early puberty is not merely a reflection of physical changes-it's deeply psychological with effects that can put a girl at risk for behavioral problems as well as long term health challenges, such as obesity, depression, eating disorders, and even breast cancer.

Bay Area authors, Louise Greenspan, MD and Julianna Deardorff PhD, have published a new, groundbreaking book. Both mothers of young girls, the doctors address the question: What happens when a girl has the brain of an 8-year-old and the body of a 13-year-old? Hear their reassuring, empowering answers.

Wine Women & Song




Saturday, October 18th 6:00-10:00pm, Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael

MILL VALLEY, Calif., (09/30/14) – Featuring music composed or made famous by artists who've battled breast cancer, and performed by some of the Bay Area's finest singers and musicians, Wine, Women & Song is a raucous rock n’ roll concert and dance party that raises money for the fight against breast cancer. This year’s celebration takes place SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18 at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.


Produced by event founder and local performer Susan Zelinsky and the Harbor Point Charitable Foundation, the $50.00 general admission ticket includes passed hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and a signature drink bar, as well as dancing, raffle, and silent and live auctions. The $75.00 Premium ticket also includes a scrumptious buffet catered by Piazza D'Angelo of Mill Valley.  Renee Richardson, KFOG 104.5FM Morning Host, will act as MC and Auctioneer. Last year the event attracted more than 200 guests and raised more than $40,000 for To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation and Zero Breast Cancer. Tickets can be purchased at or 415-383-6114.

Susan Zelinsky established the event in 1998 after both her mother and stepmother were diagnosed with cancer. “These concerts began as a way for me to do something positive while my mother battled breast cancer. In addition to helping my loved ones, I found I could make a substantial difference for other cancer patients and increase awareness in people who knew little or nothing about the disease.” To date, she has raised over $140,000 for local charities focused on breast cancer research, treatment and support.

Bob Kaliski, Chair of the Harbor Charitable Foundation, states “This evening is a celebration of the indomitable spirit of the women and men who have battled breast cancer. The proceeds from the event will fund mammograms for Bay Area residents who might not otherwise be able to afford them, and continued research into the causes of this insidious disease.  We are especially grateful to Marin General Hospital, our primary sponsor, and Piazza D'Angelo for their generous contribution to the event.”


To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundationisan all-volunteer organization thatgrants financial assistance to nonprofit organizations that providedirect services and support to peoplein the Bay Area living with breast

Zero Breast Cancer is a community-based organization dedicated to prevention and finding the causes of breast cancer through local participation in the scientific research process.


Marin General Hospital provides exceptional health care services in a compassionate and healing environment, and delivers superior clinical outcomes in a sustainable, state-of-the-art facility.


The Harbor Point Charitable Foundation facilitates increased funding and awareness of adult health issues by supporting Bay Area organizations that educate, conduct research and provide help to those experiencing a health crisis, and provides funding for organizations increasing the quality of life for Bay Area children through education, health care and social enrichment programs.

Earlier Onset of Puberty in Girls Linked to Obesity

In 2003, Zero Breast Cancer collaborated with scientists from Kaiser Division of Research and UCSF to establish a Bay Area Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program which was funded by the National Institute of Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute. Zero Breast Cancer is chair of the Community Outreach and Translational Core (COTC) and is responsible for bringing the community voice into the research and disseminating the research findings back to the community. We have been an integral part of the CYGNET study. In 2012, Zero Breast Cancer received funding to establish a Youth Advisory Board to allow study participants the opportunity to provide input into the research and to learn more about research process and the CYGNET study.

Read more: Earlier Onset of Puberty in Girls Linked to Obesity

Men caregivers need support, too

rollercoaster-by-woody-weingartenWhen it comes to breast cancer, men — especially prime caregivers — are often a forgotten part of the equation.

A winner of a ZBC Honor Thy Healer: Healing Partner award, Woody Weingarten, has written a new book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," to remedy that situation. 

It's a comprehensive memoir-chronicle and guide to up-to-the-minute scientific research, meds and where to get help.

The Bay Area author says "Rollercoaster," which your favorite bookstore can order in hardcover or paperback (and also is available in ebook format), will benefit male caregivers because "even if they mistakenly believe they require zero help and can fix anything, they need support." Simultaneously, he adds, "a woman reader can learn what a man goes through while she's locked in a life-threatening battle."

Weingarten certainly is an expert in his subject matter. He's been running Marin Man to Man, a drop-in breast cancer support group for guys, the last 20 years — since shortly after his wife, who’s doing very well indeed, was diagnosed.

Zero Breast Cancer One of Eight Local Breast Cancer Organizations Receiving Grants

11th Annual San Francisco Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Raises More Than $4.2 Million




San Francisco, Calif., September 29, 2013 - The 11th annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancerseason continued with the Avon Walk San Francisco this weekend, raising more than $4.2 million to advance access to care and funding breast cancer prevention and treatment research. The Avon Walk San Francisco attracted nearly 2,000 participants from over 40 states and Washington, D.C. in addition to Canada, the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. Additionally, 283 breast cancer survivors and 215 men joined together to raise life-saving funds and awareness for breast cancer.









Read more: Zero Breast Cancer One of Eight Local Breast Cancer Organizations Receiving Grants

Healers, Researchers & Leaders Honored by Zero Breast Cancer

May 15, 2013

HTHhonoreesSAN RAFAEL, CA - Zero Breast Cancer, a community non-profit organization based in Marin County, honored nine individuals, organizations and businesses for their contributions to understanding breast cancer and the healing process, and for leadership in improving the community's health. 

The awards were presented at the 14th Annual Honor Thy Healer program on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at the Mill Valley Community Center. Tom Scott, Director of Global Branding and Innovation at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation served as Honorary Chair and Keynote Speaker. Executive director Janice Barlow highlighted breast cancer and the environment research progress in the Bay Area and nationally. Two hundred attendees included business and healthcare leaders, honoree associates and prior honorees, public officials, breast cancer advocates and community members.

Read more: Healers, Researchers & Leaders Honored by Zero Breast Cancer

Zero Breast Cancer applauds Angelina Jolie's preventative double mastectomy

Angelina-Jolie-Covers-TIME-Magazine-e1368660188176Janice Barlow, executive director of the San Rafael nonprofit Zero Breast Cancer, said what Jolie did is not unusual for women who learn they carry the BRCA1 gene. "People who carry the gene have a significantly increased risk of both ovarian and breast cancer," Barlow said. "It's not uncommon for women given that information to have a double mastectomy and have their ovaries removed."



Read more: Zero Breast Cancer applauds Angelina Jolie's preventative double mastectomy

CHR publishes CYGNET Story


MEDIA ALERT: The California Health Report publishes online & print version of latest article on Cygnet Study and early onset puberty in young girls

As many of you know, Zero Breast Cancer serves as the head of the Community Outreach & Translation Core for The CYGNET Study, which focuses on determinants of early puberty in girls across the Bay Area and is one of three puberty study sites under The Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program funded by The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. 
The California Health Report ( recently published an article about the Cygnet Study and early onset puberty in young girls.  Dr. Larry Kushi, the Principal Investigator on this long term study under Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, and Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco's Dr. Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist and CYGNET researcher, were both interviewed for the article, as well as Shelby Aszklar, a member of CYGNET's Youth Advisory Board. This is only the most recent article on the subject following publication of the latest part of the research this past fall.  


Trend Towards Early Puberty in Girls Continues, Researchers Ask Why 
January 15, 2014 

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By Lily Dayton
The evidence is clear: Children’s clothing departments offer an assortment of candy-colored push-up bras, while extra-small menstrual pads come decorated with sparkly star designs that appeal to elementary schoolgirls. An advertisement for “Fresh Kidz” deodorant touts a child-friendly formula designed for “younger, sensitive skins.”

These products aren’t simply symbolic of a society that pushes kids to grow up too fast. Kids these days really are growing up faster—particularly girls. Numerous studies have shown that, throughout the last half-century, the age at which girls enter puberty has dropped. A paper published recently in the journal Pediatrics confirmed that this trend continues, with girls starting breast development at even younger ages than they were in a landmark 1997 study that first documented the shift towards earlier puberty onset in girls.

“It’s just 15 years later, but clearly the age at onset [of breast development] in the female population is younger,” said Dr. Lawrence Kushi, Director of Science Policy in the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente. Kushi is the principal investigator for the San Francisco site in this study, which looked at breast development in over 1200 girls across several ethnic groups from three sites: San Francisco, Cincinnati and New York.

Study results showed that the average age at onset of breast development was 8.8 years in African American girls, 9.3 years in Latina girls, and 9.7 years in Asian American and Caucasian girls. As in past studies, extra body fat was found to be a driving factor in early breast development, with obese and overweight girls developing significantly earlier than girls with a normal body weight, regardless of race.

But obesity alone doesn’t explain the phenomenon. Though girls with a higher body mass index showed the most dramatic changes, even girls with a healthy body weight are developing earlier than in decades past, said Kushi.

A marked shift since the 1997 study was seen in Caucasian girls, who developed an average of 4 months earlier than girls in the previous cohort. In addition, the proportion of African American girls who’ve started to develop breasts in the first grade has tripled in the past 15 years—with 18 percent starting breast development in the first grade and 38 percent developing by third grade (compared with 4 percent of white girls developing by first grade, rising to 21 percent by third grade).

Overall, Latina girls were intermediate between white girls and African American girls, and Asian American girls developed slightly later than white girls. This is one of the first studies to look at pubertal milestones in Asian American girls.

Following girls through time
This recent analysis is a first step in an ongoing puberty study by the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), an effort funded by the National Institutes of Health to learn about the role environmental factors play in breast cancer risk. Since early puberty onset—particularly early menstruation—is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer later in life, BCERP researchers are following the girls over time, investigating factors that may hasten or delay puberty.

Shelby Aszklar was enrolled at the San Francisco study site as an eight-year-old. “When I started I didn’t really know what to expect, so I was kind of scared,” said the now 15-year-old, a junior at Berkeley High School with a nose ring and a mane of wavy brown hair. After the first few visits, she got used to the study routine—being examined and palpated, having her blood drawn, and answering a series of personal questions.

Eventually, Aszklar became part of the Youth Advisory Board for the study—a group of teenage girls who give feedback to researchers about study questionnaires and provide suggestions for an interactive study website. Aszklar said that participation in the study has helped her understand the changes her body has gone through. “They tell you things that normal health education classes don’t,” she said. “It made me think about how what I do and where I live affects me.”

Along with measuring developmental milestones, BCERP researchers are investigating environmental factors that could influence the girls’ hormonal metabolism—everything from stress levels, physical activity and diet to consumption of organic food versus conventional food, shampoo brands, exposure to cigarette smoke and pollution, and even family structure. (There is evidence that girls living in a home without their biological father start puberty at an earlier age—and the age at onset drops even further if a stepfather moves into the home.)

A Perfect Storm
The researchers are particularly interested in endocrine disrupting chemicals—chemicals that interfere with the body’s natural hormones—and how they interact with body fat to influence puberty. Some chemicals wreak havoc on the endocrine system by influencing enzymes involved with hormonal pathways. Others have a similar molecular structure to the female sex hormone estradiol and so can lock on to estrogen receptors in the body, thus producing an estrogen-mimicking effect. Scientists believe that some of these chemicals may even cause obesity itself, perhaps by stimulating appetite centers in the brain or influencing other hormone levels.

“We know that obesity is associated with earlier pubertal development,” said Dr. Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist with Kaiser Permanente and researcher at the San Francisco site. But, she added, to make matters more complex, “fat tissue is a hormone-secreting organ.”

In a feedback loop Dr. Greenspan described as “a perfect storm,” the same chemicals that influence estrogen metabolism may cause girls to accumulate more fat tissue, which in turn secretes more estrogen. It may be that “the addition of chemicals and fat tissue is making changes in their hormonal milieu and the way their body is exposed to hormones. It might be that obesity plus the chemicals leads to problems.”

Possible culprits researchers are investigating for this study include flame retardants, Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and parabens (both commonly used in personal care products), pesticide and tobacco compounds, and heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.

“We’re all living in a sea of these chemicals, and more is coming out about how they affect the endocrine system,” said Marcia Herman-Giddens, the principal investigator of the landmark 1997 study and currently an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. She pointed out that most chemicals in use today were developed after World War II—a timeline that fits the progression of earlier onset of puberty throughout the decades.

Herman-Giddens added that throughout the same period much else has changed in our society: neighborhoods are less safe to run around in, diets are supplemented with high-calorie junk food, physical education has been cut from schools, and television and computers encourage kids to be less active. “There are just so many factors—any one girl is going to be subjected to many, if not all, of these factors at the same time.”

The New Normal?
As researchers tease apart the factors that influence pubertal timing, there is debate about whether early development should be considered “the new normal.” From a medical perspective, a new definition of normal changes the parameters of who is evaluated for early puberty.

“We used to say that seven-year-olds with breast development had a hormone problem,” explained Dr. Greenspan. “Now we’re saying maybe we don’t need to evaluate them and do expensive blood tests and MRI scans. So that’s useful information for clinicians.”
But, she added, the mother in her questions: “What is happening to our girls?”

In light of the consequences of early development, Herman-Giddens asks the same thing. A large body of research links early puberty with increased downstream risk of not only breast cancer, but ovarian and endometrial cancer, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Early maturation has also been linked to higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, and risky behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual intercourse at a younger age.

“Their childhood is cut short,” said Herman-Giddens. “There are just so many reasons why this is not a good thing.”

Normal or not, the large proportion of girls that are developing at a younger age calls into question the timing of sex education in schools, said Dr. Greenspan. “We are doing our girls a disservice by teaching them sex ed in fifth or sixth grade. The horse has bolted from the barn for 50 percent of the girls. Half of them have their periods by then.”

Dr. Greenspan recommends that puberty education start in third or fourth grade, adding that puberty does not equal sex in kids’ minds. “We need to teach them about puberty way before we teach them about sex.”

Aszklar agreed that talking about changes taking place in their bodies is the best way to support girls who are developing at a young age. “I definitely think that talking to other girls about it is really important,” she said, adding that girls need “a safe place to ask questions and learn facts about going through puberty and what causes it.”



Doctors to Notify of Risk of Cancer

mammogramdensityStarting April 1st, doctors are required by a new state law to notify women with dense breast tissue that they could be at increased risk for breast cancer. Zero Breast Cancer's Executive Director Janice Barlow and other Marin experts weigh in on why they hope the law won't cause unnecessary stress for women.

Read more: at the Marin Independent Journal




IBCERCC Report Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention

ibcercc-reportOn Tuesday, February 12, 2013 the federally mandated Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC), released its report, Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention. This report is a call to action to develop a national strategy to increase research in breast cancer prevention with a focus on how environmental factors affect the development of the breast across a woman's lifespan and her risk of breast cancer. The report offers seven recommendations to highlight the urgent need for coordinated, targeted efforts to identify and mitigate the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Read more: IBCERCC Report Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention

Shoe Stories of Sausalito Donates to ZBC


Shoe Stories of Sausalito, a brand new luxury shoe and bag boutique in downtown Sausalito, is generously donating 10% of their proceeds through the end of October to the Roni Peskin Mentzer Memorial Fund of Zero Breast Cancer. Check out their fall line of designer women's footwear on Facebook as well as their website and learn more about Shoe Stories Sausalito from ABC 7's story on the new boutique.

Shoe Stories of Sausalito is located at 22 El Portal, Sausalito, CA 94965



Zero Breast Cancer is a proud member of the California Breast Cancer Mapping Project

breastcancermappingprojectphotoOn Tuesday, November 27, 2012 the Public Health Institute released a study that spurs important dialogue around breast cancer in California. The California Breast Cancer Mapping Project was funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program of the University of California to explore the feasibility of mapping areas in the state with elevated breast cancer rates in a manner that is useful to diverse stakeholders. Multi-disciplinary staff affiliated with the Public Health  Institute recruited an advisory group (AG) of breast cancer advocates, clinicians, and public health practitioners to develop a mapping protocol that would identify geographic areas most impacted by breast cancer.

Read more: Zero Breast Cancer is a proud member of the California Breast Cancer Mapping Project

Honor Thy Healer 2013 - Call for Award Nominations

November 20, 2012
Contact: Susan Schwartz, Education Director; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Zero Breast Cancer invites 2013 Honor Thy Healer award nominations

(San Rafael, Calif) --- Zero Breast Cancer, a community non-profit organization based in Marin County, invites nominations from the public for the Healing Professional and Healing Partner awards to be presented at the Honor Thy Healer dinner and awards program on Thursday, May 9th 2013, at the Mill Valley Community Center. Attendees will include breast cancer survivors and supporters, public officials, business and professional leaders, honorees and associates, community members and friends of Zero Breast Cancer.

Read more: Honor Thy Healer 2013 - Call for Award Nominations

In Memorium of Roni Peskin Mentzer (1945-2013)



 Roni Francine

Zero Breast Cancer mourns the death of Roni Peskin Mentzer, Emeritus member of our Board of Directors, who died on July 3, 2013, following a long and courageous battle with breast cancer.  A founding member of Zero Breast Cancer, known then as Marin Breast Cancer Watch, Roni’s personal experience fueled her determination to find out why women living in Marin County had such a high incidence of the disease.   Although she did not completely conquer breast cancer, she triumphed in the way that she lived throughout her illness, which included her many contributions to her community.

roni flavia


A New York City native and former kindergarten teacher, Roni’s career included corporate sales and interior design in the Bay Area.  She was a world traveler and arts enthusiast who channeled her creative talents into fundraising events for Zero Breast Cancer (ZBC) and fiber arts explorations with the Plexus Arts Group.   Being ill with breast cancer, particularly in recent years, never deprived Roni of her curiosity, easy wit, and her capacity to be completely alive each day of her life.  As recently as the spring of 2012, with her devoted husband Dr. William Mentzer, she danced the tango in Buenos Aries, Argentina. 

ARFS GroupIn her formative days as an activist with Marin Breast Cancer Watch (MBCW), Roni joined forces with fellow breast cancer survivors to demand that public officials fund increased research into the contributing factors to breast cancer, beginning with earlier life exposures and environmental influences.  Roni was a member of the MBCW team of community co-investigators who, with Dr. Margaret Wrensch at UCSF, conducted groundbreaking research known as the Adolescent Risk Factors Study (ARFS) that focused on adolescence as a potential “window of susceptibility” for breast cancer. The ARFS study, published in 2003 in Breast Cancer Research, was the first community-based participatory research study to reveal population risk factors and exposures linked to breast cancer in Marin County.   Roni is named as a co-author of this study. 


SusanMRoniPM healing-partner-2011Roni spearheaded Zero Breast Cancer’s first annual Honor Thy Healer awards program in 2002 to shine a light on the contributions of healing professionals, healing partners and others who make a difference in the lives of women affected by breast cancer.  As of 2013, Honor Thy Healer has recognized over 100 health professionals, supportive partners, researchers, authors, health activists, entrepreneurs and public officials who play important roles in advancing our understanding of breast cancer, community action and the healing process.  In 2011, Roni nominated her hiking pal and dear friend Susan Mulvey for the Healing Partner award.  Their unique partnership can be viewed in this 2011 Honor Thy Healer video. Zero Breast Cancer will forever cherish the memory of Roni’s enthusiastic participation in the 2011 Honor Thy Healer awards celebration. 


plexus2Although breast cancer is a serious issue, Roni believed in having fun and making the most of her precious life and time with her friends and family between cancer treatment and recovery.  When Roni’s cancer returned in 2009, her fellow artists in the Plexus Arts Group created a collection of 38 unique fiber arts hats that expressed their own creativity and support for their friend.  Thanks to the generous gift from Steve and Britt Thal, these hats, each exquisite art pieces, are displayed permanently at the ZBC office and are loaned out to women’s health events and for local and traveling arts exhibits. The Zero Breast Cancer-Plexus Hats also appear in the 2012 Academy award nominated short documentary Mondays at Racine.

roni thalAccording to Janice Barlow, Zero Breast Cancer executive director, “Roni appreciated both the comedy and the tragedy her particular cancer and knew that her life would be shortened, yet she maintained her sense of style and a desire to be with people and do the things that she enjoyed, including staying in touch with us.  Our Board of Directors has established the Roni Peskin Mentzer Memorial Fund to continue with the prevention work that Roni and our founding board members envisioned.  We are grateful that her family has named Zero Breast Cancer as one of two organizations to receive donations in honor of our longtime friend. ” 

Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention

ibcercc-reportOn Tuesday, February 12, 2013 the federally mandated Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC), released its report, Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention. This report is a call to action to develop a national strategy to increase research in breast cancer prevention with a focus on how environmental factors affect the development of the breast across a woman's lifespan and her risk of breast cancer. The report offers seven recommendations to highlight the urgent need for coordinated, targeted efforts to identify and mitigate the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Zero Breast Cancer is a proud member of IBCERCC and is pleased that many of the recommendations from the committee reflect our organization's 17 year mission to find the environmental causes of breast cancer through community participation in the research process. We will use the recommendations from this report to guide us as we continue to carry out our mission. Like you, we look forward to the day when we have an early preventative strategy for breast cancer.

 The full report is posted at: