A recent analysis conducted by Duke Health has found that the incidence of breast cancer in urban counties in North Carolina is significantly higher compared to rural counties, especially at the early stages of diagnosis. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, sheds light on the impact of environmental quality on breast cancer rates, which have been attributed to a variety of origins and spreading mechanisms.
Led by senior author Gayathri Devi, Ph.D., the research team explored the connection between breast cancer incidence and the Environmental Quality Index (EQI). The EQI considers factors like air and water quality, land conditions, built environment, and sociodemographics in each county. By analyzing the EQI data alongside breast cancer incidence rates from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry, the research team was able to assess the impact of environmental quality on the different stages of breast cancer.
The findings revealed that counties with lower overall environmental quality had a higher incidence of breast cancer, with an increase of 10.82 cases per 100,000 persons compared to counties with good environmental quality. This association was particularly noticeable for localized breast cancer. Additionally, the study found that poor land quality, especially in urban areas, was linked to higher breast cancer rates. Factors such as pesticide exposure and toxic releases from industrial, agricultural, and animal facilities were taken into account in the land EQI.
The research team also observed that counties with higher populations of Black residents experienced higher rates of breast cancer, both in later stages of the disease and overall. This is consistent with global trends, as aggressive breast cancers are more prevalent among Black women.
Interestingly, the study showed a correlation between higher mammography screening rates and lower regional breast cancer rates. This highlights the importance of improved screening measures, as early detection plays a crucial role in reducing the number of diagnoses at later stages of the disease.
The study underscores the need to consider cumulative environmental exposures in assessing cancer stage and incidence, particularly in vulnerable communities. By understanding the impact of environmental quality on breast cancer rates, researchers hope to develop strategies and measures to mitigate the disease’s prevalence in affected communities.
Q: What did the Duke Health analysis reveal about breast cancer rates in North Carolina?
A: The analysis showed that urban counties in North Carolina had higher overall incidences of breast cancer compared to rural counties, especially at early stages upon diagnosis.
Q: How did the research team assess the impact of environmental quality on breast cancer rates?
A: The team used the Environmental Quality Index (EQI), which takes into account factors such as air and water quality, land conditions, built environment, and sociodemographics in each county.
Q: What were the key findings of the study?
A: The study found that counties with poor overall environmental quality had higher breast cancer incidence, particularly for localized cases. Poor land quality, especially in urban areas, was also associated with higher rates of breast cancer.
Q: Did the study identify any disparities in breast cancer rates among different populations?
A: Yes, the study revealed that counties with higher populations of Black residents had higher rates of breast cancer, both in later stages of the disease and overall.
Q: What role does mammography screening play in breast cancer rates?
A: The analysis found that higher mammography screening rates were associated with lower regional breast cancer incidence rates. Improved screening measures are believed to contribute to the early detection of the disease.