NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Searching for an Environmental Link to Breast Cancer

August 13, 2002

Scientists have been trying to prove a link between such factors as cigarette smoke, chemicals and electromagnetic fields near power lines to incidences of breast cancer. But they have never been able to come up with a "smoking gun" cause.

  • Most recently, an $8 million National Cancer Institute study failed to prove a link between certain pesticides, exhaust fumes or cigarette smoke to breast cancer among Long Island women.
  • Researchers called the study "very, very conclusive" in its finding that smokers, for example, did not have more breast cancer than nonsmokers.
  • Similarly, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997, involving 32,826 nurses, found no evidence that DDT and PCBs increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • In 1998, a Harvard study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found no link between exposure to chemicals and breast cancer.

These and other studies haven't dissuaded women who are certain the links are out there. Their attitude continues to be that a lot more studies need to be done.

But many scientists are coming to the conclusion that more studies would be unproductive and there is a need to move on to other lines of work.

Source: Gina Kolata, "Looking for the Link," New York Times, August 11, 2002.


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