In the early 1990’s the nation was alarmed to hear that on Long Island, New York there was a much higher incidence of breast cancer than perhaps anywhere else in the nation. This so-called “cancer cluster” lead to an ongoing study known as the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project. Among its targets was the possible connection between breast cancer and environmental factors, such as electric fields and pesticides. On Long Island there are many exposed high voltage towers and the use of pesticides such as DDT was common. It seemed that in and around Nassau and Suffolk counties the incidence of breast cancer was many times that of the rest of the nation. These cancer studies and others found that there was no relationship between breast cancer and the proximity of electric fields or exposure to organochlorines found in pesticides. The studies found some connection, however, between the exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) found in cigarettes and grilled foods and breast cancer. Environmental factors and other possibilities are still being studied.
Are There More Environmental Factors Surrounding Breast Cancer?
Could there be another connection? Was it perhaps the greater use of deodorants, hair dyes, birth control pills or even underwire bras among the more affluent female populace of Long Island as has been wildly and widely speculated? Are these breast cancer myths or facts? None of these connections has ever been scientifically proven. These theories have perpetuated cancer myths, but were there other connections, more environmental factors that related to affluence? Although it is assumed that in more affluent areas there is less smoking, more exercise and a better overall diet, in many parts of the world the incidence of breast cancer continues to be higher in these areas. So what is the connection after all? It seems that the longer estrogen appears in high levels in females’ bodies the higher the incidence of breast cancer. In the more affluent areas women have children later, have fewer children and more take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). All three of these factors contribute to more estrogen and therefore more breast cancer.
Facts on Breast Cancer Drugs
Once considered one of the new breast cancer drugs, and now a standard, the drug Tamoxifen suppresses estrogen production and accordingly has met with great success in treating breast cancer.
The use of alcohol enables the formation of new blood vessels in the body. This process is called angiogenesis. Drugs which slow this process have met with great success as well. These “anti-angiogenesis” drugs starve tumors by cutting off their blood supply.
Research continues in hopes of finding new breast cancer drugs, until a cure is found, it would be preventively wise to limit or cease smoking, eating of grilled foods and alcohol consumption. What has been recommended for almost all that ails us, good diet and exercise, continues as well to be good preventive medicine for cancer.
There will always be myths and facts surrounding breast cancer. Are environmental factors the cause; are we eating something that is causing breast cancer? It may take a long time to know what exactly causes breast cancer. But, rest assured, that scientists continue to research and test new breast cancer drugs.