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summary of: Breast Cancer-Pollutant Link Unproven. The Washington Post

  Breast Cancer-Pollutant Link Unproven.  The Washington Post,
  October 30, 1997, pA4.
       A recent study has found no evidence that two types of
  endocrine disrupting substances, the pesticide DDT and
  polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), cause breast cancer in women.
  This report contradicts similar studies that have shown a link
  between the substances and a woman's risk of getting breast
       "There are good ecologic reasons to avoid the release of DDT
  and PCBs into our environment," said the report authors in
  today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, "but on the
  basis of our results, the use of these compounds does not explain
  the high and increasing rates of breast cancer."
       DDT and PCBs accumulate in fat tissue in people's bodies and
  break down very slowly. Even though neither of the substances
  have been produced in the US since the 1970's, they are still
  present in the environment.
       Previous studies of these substances have suggested that
  they can mimic the effects of estrogen in women. Some scientists
  believe that the presence of these chemicals in the environment
  may also be linked to a drop in male sperm counts in the last
  several decades.
       This most recent study was led by Mary S. Wolff of the Mount
  Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  The women studied were
  nurses who were already participating in a Harvard study. 240
  women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer were compared to
  240 women with similar characteristics and lifestyles who had no
  cancer.  Levels of DDT and PCBs were examined in frozen blood
  samples which had been taken from the women in 1989.  The study
  found that the levels of the substances were similar in the women
  with cancer and those without.
       Devra Lee Davis, director of health environmental
  development at the World Resources Institute, points out that
  when the exposure to these chemicals occurs can have an impact on
  the risk of breast cancer. Prenatal exposure or exposure soon
  after birth may cause permanent changes in the way some organs
  respond to carcinogens later in life, says Davis.
       "Prenatal exposures and even what you do as an adolescent
  can be of enormous importance to your breasts when you're 40 or
  50," said Davis. "This study certainly doesn't exonerate these
  ** The above story was also reported in: **
  Study Discounts DDT Role in Breast Cancer.  The New York Times,
  October 30, 1997, pA26.