Stabilizing incidence of breast cancer and chemical fears

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According to a report released yesterday by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, the overall rate of new breast cancer cases diagnosed among white women did not significantly change between 2003 and 2007. This contrasts with a sharp decline of 7 percent which took place between 2002 and 2003, according to an analysis of data published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

Study researchers, however, were unable to specifically delineate the reasons for the change in trend, but they speculate that the prior drop-off may be related to the significant decline in use of hormone replacement therapy after the Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002 linked hormone use to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Though many factors may be responsible for the recent stabilization in breast cancer rates, one thing is for certain: chemicals have not led to a breast cancer epidemic as many anti-chemical crusaders would have you believe. “In fact, there is no epidemic at all,” emphasizes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Breast cancer rates rose in the 1970s and 1980s due to an increase in detection as screening through mammography became universal. Though many new cases were initially detected, the numbers eventually began to decline and stabilize. The same is true of all cancer cases: incidence is down significantly, contrary to the scare stories.”

Although cancer rates have stabilized, ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan doesn’t wish to downplay the danger of breast cancer, and she reminds readers that there are known risk factors for the disease — none of which include exposure to chemicals — that require attention. Further, she notes that there are medications available that people with some of these risk factors can take in order to reduce their risk.