Cancer: Reducing the Risk: Higher rates of breast cancer in Seattle

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 10:30 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

SEATTLE -- In the never ending search for the causes of cancer, we all want to find a smoking gun.
Cigarettes satisfied that craving. But what about those other suspects all around us here in the Northwest?

There's our coffee. Our busy and stressful lives. There's our cellphones. But there's good news on that front. There's no good evidence that's there's a link between cell phone use and development of cancer.

But cancer cops like Fred Hutchinson Cancer Researcher Dr. Scott Davis keep looking for clues. Lately he's been finding them on the night shift.

"We were looking at whether or not the risk of breast cancer is influenced by whether or not a woman works the night shift," says Dr. Davis.

His group found a woman's body doesn't produce as much cancer fighting melatonin if she is working under bright lights at night instead of sleeping in the dark.

Is it then our lack of light to blame for a higher than normal breast cancer risk? Experts say maybe or it could be another factor associated with busy, smart, successful women -- their biological clock.

"In a highly educated population, high income population, women tend to put off that first birth into their 30s or later," says Dr. Kathi Malone from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Scientists say there is little question that the effects of child birth and breast feeding on a woman's body can actually protect her from breast cancer down the road.

Which brings us to the baby. He or she may face cancer from exposure to so-called endocrine disrupting chemicals found in the plastics and other products. What's a parent to do?

"You can try to decrease the number of products that you're using and use eco-friendly products that have very few ingredients that are toxic," says Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Researchers say if we concentrate on those known suspects and reduce or eliminate them, we'll be much better off than stressing out over the unknowns.

As for coffee, relax. Most of the researchers we spoke to say they have found no link between caffeine and cancer.

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