Another bogeyman is electromagnetic radiation from power lines. But the latest Long Island cancer study, published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, found no association between exposure to electromagnetic fields and breast cancer. Researchers examined 1,161 women on Long Island -- 576 who had breast cancer and 585 who did not.
After taking measurements of magnetic fields in often-used rooms in the women's houses, such as bedrooms and living rooms, and mapping the power lines surrounding each home, the decade-long study concluded there was no evidence that power line exposure hampered production of the estrogen-related hormone melatonin. These findings are consistent with every major investigation of the alleged power line-cancer link. After conducting an exhaustive assessment of over 500 studies published in the last 17 years, the independent National Research Council reported that there is "no conclusive and consistent evidence" that exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields threatens human health.
If it isn't the evil chemicals or invisible rays, then what's causing the alleged cancer cluster in Long Island? Scientists not seeking Senate re-election have noted that certain lifestyle choices -- from smoking to delaying child-bearing to opting against breast-feeding -- have been associated with higher rates of breast cancer. Alas, pointing out these epidemiological connections won't win you Long Island soccer mom votes.
More important is the simple concept of chance. The population of the United States is roughly 300 million people. Based on random statistics, the existence of cancer clusters is inevitable. Disease rates will naturally be high in some places and low in others. Unlike the college student admissions process, Mother Nature cannot be socially engineered by government meddlers.
That won't stop politicians from trying, of course. Preaching fear has always been more lucrative than promoting skepticism.
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