Urban Environmental Exposures Linked to Higher Breast Cancer Incidence in North Carolina
A recent analysis conducted by Duke Health has revealed that urban counties in North Carolina have higher incidences of breast cancer compared to rural counties, particularly at early stages upon diagnosis. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, these findings provide a national framework for assessing the impact of poor environmental quality on different stages of breast cancer.
The study, led by senior author Dr. Gayathri Devi, explored the incidence of breast cancer in relation to the Environmental Quality Index (EQI), which evaluates air, water, land, built environment, and sociodemographic factors at the county level. By analyzing data from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry, the researchers were able to assess the impact of environmental quality on breast cancer incidence rates across different stages of the disease.
The analysis revealed that counties with poor overall environmental quality had significantly higher incidences of breast cancer, particularly at the localized stage. In urban settings with poor land quality, there were also higher rates of total breast cancer incidence, with exposures to pesticides and toxic releases from industrial, agricultural, and animal facilities playing a role.
Furthermore, the study found that higher populations of Black residents in certain counties were associated with higher rates of total breast cancer incidence, which is particularly relevant given the higher incidence of aggressive breast cancers in Black women globally.
Interestingly, the analysis also showed that higher mammography screening rates were associated with lower regional breast cancer incidence rates, suggesting that improved screening may lead to a decrease in diagnoses of later-stage disease.
Overall, this study provides important insights into the complex relationship between environmental exposures and breast cancer incidence, highlighting the need for further research and public health interventions to address these disparities. As breast cancer is a disease with highly diverse origins and mechanisms for spreading, understanding the impact of environmental factors is crucial for developing effective prevention and treatment strategies.