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Sister study hopes to answer breast cancer questions.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Sister Study Hopes to Answer Breast Cancer Questions Working out of their office in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, a pair of NIEHS researchers are laying the groundwork for what may prove to be a landmark study of the possible interplay between genetics and the environment in the development of breast cancer. Principal investigator Dale Sandler, acting chief of the institute’s Epidemiology Branch, and colleague Clarice Weinberg, chief of the Biostatistics Branch, plan to recruit 50,000 female volunteers aged 35–70 whose sisters have been diagnosed with breast cancer and follow their health over a period of time. Eventually the researchers will evaluate the 1,500 or so of the women that they esti- mate will develop breast cancer during the initial five years of follow-up, analyzing envi- ronmental, genetic, and health data captured at the outset of the study. Sandler and Weinberg are absorbed in the extensive work necessary to develop a study of this size, scope, and importance. Besides develop- ing an overall plan for the study, the researchers are meeting with focus groups, doing feasibility studies, devel- oping applications and ques- tionnaires, and marshaling the considerable technical, finan- cial, and professional resources necessary to undertake the study, which will run at least 10 years. “Despite great interest in trying to discover environ- mental causes of breast cancer, we don’t have a lot of evi- dence,” Sandler says. “We don’t have a lot of clues; there are no obvious places to start.” Some evidence suggests that pesticides and solvents may cause breast cancer. Electro- magnetic fields have been the focus of other studies, though Sandler cautions that evidence from those studies is inconsis- tent. Phthalates, compounds used as plasticizers and fixa- tives and found in diverse products including cosmetics and lotions, may be a culprit as well. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that measured phthalate con- centrations in urine samples fo

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