‘Women’s Health Issues’


The latest statistics on breast cancer in this country are alarming. Since l960, well over one million American women have died from breast cancer. One in every eight women will develop breast cancer. Fifty percent of women who undergo the appropriate treatment (surgery and possibly radiation or chemotherapy) will live beyond the five year survival mark if they have no lymph node involvement, not very good odds. These same statistics also reveal that almost half of those cancer deaths have occurred in the last ten years, according to the 2005 Breast Cancer Health Project Fact Sheet, sponsored by the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health. That shows an almost 32% annual increase in breast cancer deaths from l98l to present.


What’s behind this explosion in breast cancer incidence? According to the American Cancer Society and The National Cancer Institute it is our family history, reproductive and hormonal factors, alcohol and fatty diets. But the truth is it’s more than just these factors alone. For more than l20, 000 American women a year, their cancers are caused by environmental poisons, manmade chemicals and radiation that have been produced and distributed worldwide. In l964, the World Health Organization concluded that 80% of cancers were due to human-produced carcinogens. In l979, the National Institutes of Health identified environmental factors as the major cause of most 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 reluctant to address. Industry condemns the studies pointing to environmental causes, and NCI has only recently started to focus on them.


Here are some conclusions sited by careful, professional, scientific studies:


-A Connecticut study showed levels of PCBS and DDT were 50-60% 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 ban three carcinogenic pesticides which the statistics show has been responsible for a 30% drop in breast cancer rates from l976 to l986. More studies are currently being done.


Many women carry around major misconceptions about breast cancer believing that somehow it is their fault that they have or might develop the disease. Here are some breast cancer risks that can be controlled: oral contraceptive use, excessive alcohol consumption, high fat diet, obesity. Here are some cancer risks that cannot or sometimes cannot be controlled: familial history, early onset of menarche, late onset of menopause, never becoming pregnant, first full-term pregnancy after age 30, not breast feeding an infant, height, personal history of ovarian or endometrial cancer.


As far as protecting yourself from exposure to environmental toxins we do not always have control. The best defense in spite of a planet that is severely polluted is to be aware, educate yourself about these environmental toxins and how you can contribute to cleaning them up.  Refuse to buy or use products that contribute to this kind of pollution. When we behave responsibly we not only save the planet, we save ourselves. Till next time, Rebecca.