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Provocative new Montreal study probes link between breast cancer and air pollution
Date:10/6/2010

This release is available in French.

Air pollution has already been linked to a range of health problems. Now, a ground-breaking new study suggests pollution from traffic may put women at risk for another deadly disease. The study, published in the prestigious journal Environmental Health Perspectives, by researchers from The Research Institute of the MUHC (RI MUHC; Dr. Mark Goldberg), McGill University (Drs. Goldberg, Dan Crouse and Nancy Ross), and Universit de Montral (Dr. France Labrche), links the risk of breast cancer the second leading cause of death from cancer in women to traffic-related air pollution.

"We've been watching breast cancer rates go up for some time, "says study co-author Dr. Mark Goldberg, a researcher at The RI MUHC. "Nobody really knows why, and only about one third of cases are attributable to known risk factors. Since no-one had studied the connection between air pollution and breast cancer using detailed air pollution maps, we decided to investigate it."

Dr. Goldberg and his colleagues approached the problem by combining data from several studies. First, they used the results of their 2005-2006 study to create two air pollution "maps" showing levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a by-product of vehicular traffic, in different parts of Montreal in 1996 and 10 years earlier in 1986.

Then, they charted the home addresses of women diagnosed with breast cancer in a 1996-97 study onto the air pollution maps. Their findings were startling. The incidence of breast cancer was clearly higher in areas with higher levels of air pollution.

"We found a link between post-menopausal breast cancer and exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a 'marker' for traffic-related air pollution", says Dr. Goldberg. "Across Montreal, levels of NO2 varied between 5 ppb to over 30 ppb. We found that risk increased by a
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Contact: Julie Robert
julie.robert@muhc.mcgill.ca
514-843-1560
McGill University Health Centre
Source:Eurekalert

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