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A link between breast cancer and toxic air pollution?

Athabasca University’s Sociology tutor Dr. Jim Brophy’s research is highlighted in the article “As the oceans rise, so do your risks of breast cancer,” published last week in The Conversation.

Authored by University of Windsor PhD Candidate Jane McArthur, she argues that while “[i]t is encouraging to see greater attention in the media to the issue of climate change and its effects on the life-support systems of the planet. The link between breast cancer and the environment, however, is being overlooked.”

McArthur reports that the science of breast cancer tells us that “genetic susceptibility makes only a small to moderate contribution” to breast cancer. The known risk factors — such as family history, age, gender, ethnicity, and hormones — account for only around three in 10 cases.

The other 70 percent are likely related mostly to environment — including the air, water and soil, the places we live and work in and the products we consume — according to current research. In Canada, over 26,300 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 so that 70 percent represents a lot of women.

Citing Jim Brophy and Michael Gilbertson’s paper published last November in New Solutions Journal, just one of many studies referenced in the article, McArthur tells us that our work environments are part of this story. Brophy and Gilbertson’s paper highlights the case of a border guard’s bid for compensation for her breast cancer diagnosis after 20 years working at the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest border crossing in North America. McArthur goes on to argue that the case highlights the lack of attention in climate change discussions to breast cancer as an outcome among many other diseases and illness.

McArthur concludes with a call to action:

“At this important moment in history, as we debate the poor state of the environment and the adverse outcomes associated with it, we have the opportunity to make prevention of the many diseases — including breast cancer — a priority. We must do the work now to create a future where we won’t have to surrender our good health to unregulated exposure to known and suspected breast carcinogens. Instead we must implement the precautionary principle — in our communities, our workplaces and across our planet.”

You can find the entire article here.

  • January 22, 2019
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