P&S Journal: Spring 1995, Vol.15, No.2
Long Island Breast Cancer Study Launched
The most comprehensive population-based epidemiologic study of breast cancer and the environment among Long Island women was launched April 1 with a multimillion dollar grant to the Columbia School of Public Health from the National Cancer Institute. The four-year grant was announced by Dr. Allan Rosenfield, dean of the School of Public Health, and Dr. Marilie Gammon, principal investigator of the new study and a national authority on the epidemiology of breast cancer.
"NCI's support enables the Columbia School of Public Health and its consortium of collaborating institutions to develop the necessary tools and research procedures to conduct the study of breast cancer and the environment. We anticipate that the results of this study of Long Island women will allow us to provide substantive preventive advice to women everywhere. This is a prime example of the purpose and work of public health," Dr. Rosenfield says.
The investigation will focus on whether environmental contaminants increase the risk of breast cancer among women on Long Island. Several earlier studies suggest that certain environmental exposures, primarily some organochlorines commonly used as pesticides, may increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. Estrogen metabolism may be a route through which organochlorine compounds affect breast cancer risk. Further studies have linked residence near hazardous waste sites or chemical facilities with breast cancer risk.
Although the exact exposures have not been identified, putative agents derived from such exposures may include polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, omnipresent mammary carcinogens that are estrogenic in some in vitro test systems. The primary aim of the study is to determine whether OCC and PAH are associated with breast cancer risk among the women of Long Island, where breast cancer incidence rates are among the highest in the country.
This case-control study will include residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties. Approximately 1,600 women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer will be compared with 1,600 randomly selected women from the community. The study traces its roots to the public health concerns of Long Island women and federal law. In June 1993 Congress enacted Public Law 103-43, which mandated a study of the potential causes of high breast cancer rates on Long Island, including studies of biological markers for environmental and other risk factors.
"Having fought in Congress to ensure that this essential study received the authorization and funding it needed, I am deeply gratified by the awarding of this grant, and the momentum it provides as we seek answers to the questions surrounding breast cancer on Long Island that have plagued our community for far too long," says Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-NY).
New York area epidemiologists and cancer researchers will collaborate on the study. Organizations involved in the multidisciplinary and laboratory-driven research include Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the American Health Foundation, Strang-Cornell Cancer Research Laboratory, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, North Shore University Hospital, SUNY at Stony Brook, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Winthrop University Hospital, and the County of Suffolk Department of Health Services.