California Educator

September 09

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 19 of 39

Scientists don’t yet know why the breast cancer rate is still higher among teachers. One theory is that it may have something to do with teachers’ reproductive patterns. Teachers in the study tended to delay childbirth, or did not have any children altogether, both of which have been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Some of the survey information is leading Clarke to some brand-new ideas that may be important in the prevention of breast cancer. For example, data from the survey shows that teachers who grew up among stables, farm animals, and their manure have a lower incidence of breast cancer than the rest of the female population. Clarke is conducting a study that tests the “hygiene hypothesis” as it relates to breast cancer. This idea holds that reduced or delayed exposures to microbes in childhood, or living in a mostly disease-free, sanitized environment, hampers development of a healthy immune system. In her grant application, Clarke wrote, “Some of the impetus for this research comes from hearing breast cancer survivors say, ‘I’ve never been sick a day in my life, and now I get breast cancer!’” Working in collaboration with the Northern California Cancer Center are several other institutions, including the University of California at Irvine, the University of Southern California, and the City of Hope, all of which are conducting research studies that draw from the teacher data. Researchers from NCCC and their partner institutions are looking at other factors that may have an impact on cancer, including obesity, diet, alcohol, second-hand smoke, and air pollution. “I am so proud of our teachers,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “Their participation in this important study shows that their influence goes far beyond the classroom. The information that thousands of our teachers have provided will one day have a major impact on the health of women in this nation and the world.” For more information on this study, visit; for prevention tips visit Melanoma: Know the risks Although breast cancer has garnered its share of attention, the Northern California Cancer Center has also shed some light on a troubling increase in the rates of melanoma, a skin cancer affecting both men and women. Cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are on the increase in all age, sex and socioeconomic groups — but particularly among non- Hispanic white men over the age of 65, according to a study released earlier in the year by NCCC research scientist Christina Clarke and colleagues from Stanford University, the University of Southern California and Washington University. While prior studies suggested that the increase in melanoma cases is merely due to more screening, the NCCC study showed otherwise, and estimated an overall increase in melanoma occurrence at the rate of 3.1 percent a year — with the rate in non- Hispanic white men increasing nearly 5 percent per year. Results of the study provided hard evidence that rates of early-detected thin tumors as well as late-detected thick tumors have increased. “Because we were able to break out and also to detect increase in melanoma Avoiding exposure to midday sun (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) whenever possible. Wearing protective clothing in the sun (long sleeves, pants, hats). Protecting yourself from UV radiation using lotion, cream or gel that contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Wearing sunglasses that have UV-absorbing lenses. occurrence both for thick melanomas and for persons living in impoverished areas, we can rule out this idea that melanoma is just going up because of more screening among persons with good access to screening,” Clarke said. “Now we can focus on making sure all patients know about melanoma and have improved access to screening, which can catch melanomas before they become deadly.” The study was conducted using data collected from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) national cancer monitoring program. To reduce the risk of developing melanoma, the National Cancer Institute recommends: Tips for prevention and early detection of cancer Detection Many growths can be found early and treated. Schedule regular mammograms to check for breast cancer. Melanoma is the most serious of the common types of skin cancer, but it can often be found early and treated successfully. Mutations in certain genes can make Interested in participating in future cancer research? California teachers are needed to volunteer for new studies. For more information, go to cancer more likely to develop. Learn about the different kinds of genes that can be involved in cancer, how some can be passed from parents to children, and what genetic testing can reveal about cancer risk. Use early detection methods that can find precancerous changes in some parts of the body, such as the Pap test, colonoscopy, and prostate examination. Prevention Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight throughout life. Learn about the cancer risks posed by your surroundings and what you can do about them. If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit your intake to no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men. Protect against the sun by finding shade, wearing hats, sunglasses, and clothing to shield your skin from the sun. Sunscreen alone is usually not enough protection. 20 California Educator | SEPTEMBER 2009

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - September 09