California teachers at higher risk for breast, endometrial and other cancers

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 2-California's teachers have significantly higher-than-expected rates of breast, endometrial, ovarian and several other cancers, according to research in the September issue of Cancer Causes and Control.

A study of nearly 133,500 female teachers in California begun in 1995 shows that these educators experienced a 51 percent higher rate of breast cancer than comparable California women. They also had a 72 percent greater risk of endometrial cancer, according to investigators from the Keck School of Medicine of USC, UC Irvine, the Northern California Cancer Center and the state Department of Health Services.

"Clearly, teachers face a higher risk of many cancers. These women most likely have in common certain risk factors that contribute to their increased risk. As we gather more information on our study participants over the next few years, we should gain insight into the causes of these cancers," says Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine and AFLAC Chair in Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

The study is the first to extensively examine cancer among schoolteachers. It reports on cancer incidence from 1995 to 1998 in 133,479 current and former public school teachers or administrators participating in the California State Teachers Retirement System.

Researchers expect that lessons learned about cancer within the group of participating teachers will increase understanding of the roots of cancer among all women.

About 87 percent of study participants are non-Hispanic white, though substantial numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders are involved.

Researchers found the following for teachers:

  • 28 percent greater risk of ovarian cancer
  • 59 percent greater risk of melanoma
  • 47 percent greater risk of lymphoma-mostly non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • 28 percent greater risk of leukemia-mostly chro

Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California

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