New evidence links breast cancer to electromagnetic fields
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March 24, 1998
Web posted at: 11:38 p.m. EST (0438 GMT)
From Correspondent Al Hinman
NEWPORT BEACH, California (CNN) -- Medical researchers say they have new evidence that there may be a connection between breast cancer and the electromagnetic fields produced by appliances and other household items.
The researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle say the fields can affect the levels of a hormone that controls sleep and may initiate a chain reaction that leads to breast cancer.
"Exposure to relatively low magnetic field levels decreased the production of melatonin in women" when they were exposed to them at night, according to Scott Davis of the Hutchinson center,
The researchers say the result was a reduction in melatonin levels which may trigger other hormonal changes such as a reduction in the levels of estrogen.
Reduced estrogen levels have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in animal studies.
"Melatonin reduction in animals is associated with the development of mammary carcinoma in rats, for example," says Davis.
Environment a factor in cancer
The findings, presented Tuesday at an American Cancer Society meeting, "tell us that we can measure things, and we can measure them in a very controlled fashion to see what environmental things can do to our body mechanisms," says Dr. David Rosenthal, president of the cancer society.
Cancer experts say the failure to measure and accurately assess the environmental causes of many cancers has led to widespread confusion.
The cancer society believes that conflicting results have the public -- and many doctors -- still confused about the potential dangers of overhead power lines, cell telephones, household appliances and even automobile emissions.
The researchers are convinced that our environment is a major contributor to most -- if not all -- cancers. But they're still trying to find out how, and why.