Local Breast Cancer Hot Spot

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Local Breast Cancer Hot Spot

With the waves crashing in front of you, the sun warming your body, and a slight breeze coming just over the dunes, you would never think you were sitting on a beach considered to be a breast cancer "hot spot." Unfortunatly, if you were sitting on certain Cape Cod beaches, that's just what you'd be doing.

"It's an unfortunate situation, I lost two sisters and my mother-in-law to breast cancer, all of us lived on the cape most of our lives. Their doctors were pretty sure it was caused from our contaminated drinking water," said Joan Swift, of Dennis, MA.

In Massachusetts, determining the causes of breast cancer has been a top priority since 1990 when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health published a town-by-town cancer statistics for 1982-1990. The figures showed breast cancer incidence was significantly elevated in nine of the 15 towns that make up the Cape Cod region. What is significant? Research showed that breast cancer was about 20% higher on Cape Cod than in the rest of the state. In some of the towns - such as Dennis, Harwich, Chatham, Orleans and Falmouth - they are even higher.

While women in this region continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer at an alarming rate, it is only normal for residence to want answers. Many years of research have found a couple of possibilities for this tragic problem. According to researchers at Silent Springs Institute in Newton Massachusetts, a possible reason behind the high cancer rates is the use of pesticides in marshes, cranberry bogs, golf courses and residential areas. Researchers are also looking into the possibility that synthetic chemicals found in common household products are to blame. Cheryl Osimo, Silent Springs Cape Cod coordinator, called the study's discoveries an important step.

"It is not only about Cape Cod. The findings have implications for breast cancer research throughout the country," said Osimo.

Silent Springs Institute, a nonprofit research organization, was founded in 1994 by the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and a group of Cape Cod citizens. Its goal is to find preventable causes of breast cancer, the most common cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer deaths among women 35-46 years of age. The Institute focuses on measuring exposures Cape women may have had during the past 40 years to more than 100 chemicals known to mimic estrogen, a know risk factor for the disease.

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