[MOL] Breast Cancer Study Raises Questions [00981] Medicine On Line


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[MOL] Breast Cancer Study Raises Questions




Breast Cancer Study Raises Questions

By SUSANNAH PATTON
.c The Associated Press

  
BOSTON (AP) - Researchers seeking clues about the high rate of breast cancer 
among wealthy women have found potential environmental factors, including 
professional lawn and dry-cleaning services. 

Focusing on the Boston suburb of Newton, the researchers found women in areas 
hit hardest by the disease used such services more often than those in 
less-affected neighborhoods. 

``Obviously, neither money nor schooling cause breast cancer,'' said Dr. 
Nancy Maxwell, the lead researcher. ``With the Newton study we tried to see 
if there might be environmental factors.'' 

Maxwell cautioned there is no definitive evidence that chemicals or 
pesticides cause cancer. But she said the research points to the need for 
further investigation of possible connections. 

The rate of breast cancer in Newton was 13 percent higher than the statewide 
rate between 1982 and 1992, state health officials said. 

The study ``has taken us one step further in trying to understand why 
socioeconomic status is a factor,'' said Suzanne Condon, director of 
environmental health assessment at the Massachusetts Department of Public 
Health. The department funded the study. 

The researchers from Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit research 
organization, randomly questioned 1,350 women - not necessarily cancer 
patients - ages 35 to 75. 

The study showed that women in neighborhoods with higher rates of breast 
cancer typically had higher incomes and education levels than women in areas 
with lower breast cancer rates. 

Known risk factors for breast cancer, such as delayed childbearing and family 
history of the disease, accounted for only a small part of the difference 
between areas with high and low rates of breast cancer. 

But the survey did suggest possible environmental factors. 

For example, 65 percent of the women in the area with higher breast-cancer 
rates had used a professional lawn service, compared with 36 percent of the 
women in the low-incidence neighborhood. 

In addition, 30 percent of those in the high-incidence area reported routine 
use of pesticides, compared with 23 percent in the low-incidence sector. And 
45 percent of those in the high-incidence area used dry cleaning at least 
once a month, compared with 32 percent in the less-affected neighborhood. 

A spokesman for a national association of pesticide manufacturers stressed 
that studies have shown no conclusive links between breast cancer and 
environmental chemicals. 

``We are concerned, however,'' said Chris Klose, a spokesman for the American 
Crop Protection Association in Washington, D.C. ``We want people to use 
pesticides correctly.'' 

A call seeking comment to the International Fabricare Institute, a trade 
association for dry cleaners, was not returned. 
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