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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on a new breast cancer study that will try to distinguish between the role of genes and the environment in the development of the disease.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, confessions of a compulsive canner. First, this environmental health note from Diane Toomey.

TOOMEY: Very few women who get breast cancer have any of the known genetic mutations that would make them susceptible to the disease. Researchers don't know why these women end up with breast cancer. Some think there may be other genes that play a role, or perhaps diet or exposure to toxins could be key. Or maybe it's a combination of genes and the environment. Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences hope to tease out the answer to this question. In one of the first studies of its kind, researchers will track 50,000 women who do not have breast cancer. The scientists will take blood and urine samples from the participants, as well as test for chemicals in the water and dust in their homes. The women will also provide information about their diet and exercise habits. Researchers stress the importance of studying participants who do not yet have breast cancer. This will help to accurately gauge what risk factors might have been in play before any diagnosis.

The researchers admit it's going to be difficult to find 50,000 women who'll stick with the study over its ten-year duration. So they'll be recruiting a group of participants who will probably be motivated: namely, women whose sisters have had breast cancer. These people are more at risk for the disease, so when some of them developer breast cancer the researchers hope to trace back the possible causes. The sisters study will begin enrolling participants next summer. That's this week's Health Update. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.




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