Nuclink: Journal of Current Radiation and Public Health Issues
Volume 1, Number 4
THE CURRENT CANCER EPIDEMIC AND THE BABY BOOM GENERATION (continuted)
Jay M. Gould, Director
AND CANCER INCIDENCE
IN CONNECTICUT, 1980-2000
Note that particularly since 1985, a truly shocking rise in prostate cancer incidence has occurred. The current rate for men over 45 is about 500 cases per 100,000 men, nearly three times higher than the breast cancer rate for women over 35. This is in such sharp contrast with the record of the previous 40 years, when the breast cancer rate usually exceeded the prostate cancer rate.We must ask how this epidemiological anomaly can be explained.
For prostate cancer incidence, much of the sudden recent upsurge can be attributed to the growing use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, which will include early detection of cases that would be otherwise diagnosed later. Thus this upsurge may be short-lived.
For breast cancer incidence, a great increase
occurred since 1980 that must be attributed to increases in the incidence
rates for the various age groups over 35. In Figure 4 we show how
much higher are the observed number of cases each year than the number
expected if there had been no change in the 1980 incidence rates
for each 10 year age group over 35.
Figure 5 compares the observed overall rate for all women over 35 with what would be expected, (i.e. projected) each year after 1980 if the 1980 age-specific rates for each age group had remained unchanged. The slight annual decline reflects only a changing age-composition, as baby boomer women born in 1945 reach the age of 35 after 1980. Thus we have two separate factors to consider.
According to Figure 4, an enormous environmental deterioration occurred in Connecticut after 1980 which was associated with an enormous increase in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Whereas with no environmental change, Figure 5 suggests that the overall incidence rate would have declined rather than have risen so sharply. We shall show that the environmental deterioration could reflect the differential impact of exposure to fallout from the Three Mile Island disaster of 1979 and from Chernobyl in 1986, as well as possible continuing emissions from the troubled Haddam Neck and Millstone reactors.
Figure 6 traces the annual change in the number of breast cancer cases in Connecticut from 1980 to 1995, broken down by age. It is apparent here that the rise was especially marked in the period 1986 to 1992, reflecting the impact of Chernobyl fallout, after which there was a decline reflecting the dissipation of the immediate affects of the Chernobyl fallout arriving in 1986.
But this decline can be misleading, because breast cancers among younger women were rising throughout the period, even after 1992 when the incidence among older women was declining, as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 7 demonstrates that since 1980 baby boomer women are becoming an increasingly larger component of young Connecticut women aged 35 to 49.
We expect the sharp breast cancer increase observed
after 1980 will not recur, but will be replaced by a slight rise
as baby boomer women get older--IF the Connecticut reactors which
were finally all closed down in 1995 are not reopened, and IF there
is not another accident on the scale of Chernobyl.