Two senators have introduced legislation
aimed at exploring potential links between environmental exposure and breast
Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) want to give the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) $30 million for that
purpose. The Institute would use the money to fund eight research centers around
The Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act has been
introduced into the House by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sue Myrick (R-NC). In
an appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee in May, National
Cancer Institute Director Richard Klausner said breast cancer deaths per 100,000
women have increased from 83 in 1973 to 118 in 1998. Incidence rates are
increasing by about 1% a year for white women and remain unchanged for
Women have a 1-in-8 lifetime risk of contracting breast
cancer, and half of the incidence can be explained by currently known risk
factors, such as gene mutations.
Dr. Klausner did not mention environmental
causes as potentially contributing to the other half of incidence. Sen. Reid has
expressed concern about the development of cancer in former nuclear weapons
workers in Nevada. The NIEHS has considerable experience looking for links
between cancer and industrial environments and processes.
At about the time Sen.
Reid was introducing his bill, the NIEHS was releasing a report on a study in
1,400 women in the northeast that showed no link between breast cancer and the
industrial chemicals DDT and PCB.