Breast cancer: reducing your risk

The latest statistics on breast cancer in this country are alarming. Since l960, 950,000 American women have died from breast cancer. Current studies show one in every eight women will develop breast cancer. Only fifty percent of those women will live beyond the five-year survival mark if they have no lymph node involvement. Poor odds at best. These same statistics also reveal that almost half of those cancer deaths have occurred in the last ten years, according to studies published in the Breast Cancer Health Project Fact Sheet, sponsored by the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health. These figures reflect a 32 percent annual increase in breast cancer deaths.

What’s behind the explosion in this marked increase in breast cancer? The American Cancer Society and The National Cancer Institute list the major causes as: family history, reproductive and hormonal factors, alcohol and fatty diets, and are beginning to embrace the idea that environmental poisons/pollutants play a significant role as well. In a very early landmark study (l964) The World Health Organization concluded that 80% of cancers were due to human-produced carcinogens. In another more recent study by The National Institutes of Health environmental factors were definitively linked as a major cause of many cancers.

The conclusion that toxic contaminants, such as DDT, PCBs, and especially dioxin, are significant causes of breast cancer is one that the cancer establishment is finally beginning to address. Unfortunately industry continues to condemn studies pointing to environmental causes while weakened environmental laws serve only to allow more pollutants into our air and water.

Here are some other conclusions from some significant scientific studies that further link environmental pollutants to an increased incidence of breast cancer:

A Connecticut study showed levels of PCB’s and DDT were 50-60 percent higher in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer than in women without breast cancer.

• The EPA found that US counties with waste sites were 6.5 times more likely to have elevated breast cancer rates than counties that did not have such sites.

• A Colorado study reported an association between electromagnetic field exposure and female breast cancer.

• Exposure to ionizing radiation can increase the risk of breast cancer, as shown by the increased breast cancer risk among Japanese atomic bomb survivors.

• Israel has banned three carcinogenic pesticides, which they feel has been responsible for a 30 percent drop in breast cancer rates from 1976 to l986.

Are there cancer risks that I can avoid? Yes, limit oral contraceptive use; avoid excessive alcohol consumption, high fat diets and obesity. As best you can protect yourself from exposure to environmental toxins. Educate yourself about these environmental toxins and refuse to buy or use products that contain serious pollutants. The best defense in spite of a planet that is severely polluted is to be aware. Till next time, Rebecca.