Thursday, April 17, 2008

Breast Cancer a Black and White Issue?

I read an article today that related the news that breast cancer rates among white women have dropped considerably since 2002 (the year news broke linking HRT with breast cancer and heart disease). While this is good news overall and definitely further evidence for why NOT to treat menopausal symptoms with HRT, women in other ethnic groups looked at in this study have not seen the same dramatic lowering of breast cancer rates. This is especially true among African American women.

Though the researchers did not theorize why African American and women of other minority groups have not experienced the same drop in rates as white women, I'm wondering if socioeconomics could be a co-factor in all this. If looked at according to income level and quality of life, would poor/low-income women -- regardless of race and ethnicity -- have the same drop in breast cancer rates as those women in higher socioeconomic groups? I'll have to dig a little further into this, but according to what I read, the study was NOT controlled for socioeconomic status. According to this article, poor white women have the same or higher rates of cancer when compared to minority women.

Access to quality healthcare is one of the leading reasons for the disparity of cancer among women of varying socioeconomic levels, but the more reading I do about environmental impact on personal health (especially breast tissue health), the more I believe that there is a strong link between cancer and exposure to environmental toxins and pollution. Women in inner city settings and unsafe jobs (especially large scale agricultural work and industrial jobs) are especially at risk to come in contact with harmful chemicals (though dangerous toxins even lurk in everyday objects like water bottles). For women, it is especially important to be aware of "endocrine disruptors", chemical ingredients and pollutants that can mimic estrogen in the body and impede the work of the body's endocrine system. Here's a link to an eye-opening article about this topic that's worth reading.

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