Researcher seeks 20 women for breast cancer study

What do women who work at the Ambassador Bridge understand about their risk of getting breast cancer?

Jane McArthur, a University of Windsor PhD candidate, wants to find about 20 women who have worked or are currently working in a bridge-related job in customs or at the duty-free shop for her sociology research study.

“If women know and understand what the risk factors are then I think we could prevent a lot of breast cancers that we’re seeing now,” McArthur said Monday.

She’s not saying the Ambassador Bridge is a bad place to work for your health. She picked it because it’s in west Windsor in an area with higher pollution, the bridge has high volumes of traffic and a past study that interviewed 2,000 women found women were more likely to have had breast cancer if they lived within a kilometre of the bridge or the Windsor airport, she said.

Studies suggest things like air pollution, vehicle exhaust and shift work are associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer, she said.

McArthur wants to ask women where they get their information on breast cancer, what information they trust and how they use that information to make choices. Her research could help improve health messages for women and increase the push for more environmental and occupational research on breast cancer risks.

It’s important to study because breast cancer cases are expected to increase, she said. Women often focus on their family history but less than half of breast cancers are linked to known or traditionally suspected genetic and lifestyle-related causes, she said.

“My hope is that this gets at some of the gaps in our understanding so that we can then better plan for educating women about mitigating their risk factors,” McArthur said.

It’s not a health study looking at how many women get breast cancer but research into perceptions of breast cancer risks. Did the women consider it when they started the job or do they now see it as a risk and why?

Cancer is complex. Just because people work near exhaust fumes doesn’t mean they will get breast cancer, just as women with a specific gene related to breast cancer won’t all get breast cancer, McArthur said.

It makes sense that McArthur would be interested in the topic. Her parents, Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith, did groundbreaking research published in 2012 that found women working in certain jobs such as automotive plastics, farming, food canning and metal industries had higher rates of breast cancer than the control group.

Source: The Windsor Star