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Does living on a landfill increase risk?

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Ask-the-Expert Online Conference

Question from Geri41: What do you think about building houses on landfills (garbage sites)? Have you noted an increase of cancer in these areas?
Answers - Sue Heffelfinger Landfills are long-term (meaning decades to centuries) active places where there is all sort of leaching of chemicals, runoff, and released gases that occasionally catch on fire. So one should be very cautious about long-term exposure, such as building a house, close to one. Certainly all caution would say that this is not a wise place to build.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Does either of our guest experts want to comment again on the burden put on the consumer and possible ways to share that burden with industry and regulatory agencies?
Sue Heffelfinger When you look at many of these questions, it's really not science but personal opinion. There is power in the consumer avoiding products, and letting industry know you are avoiding them. Money does talk. Through advocacy groups banding together, there is even more power in the purse. That is one kind of power we have as concerned individuals.

However, that isn't enough. Other countries take these concerns at a policy level seriously. We are fortunate in the U.S. to have some extremely active advocacy groups among breast cancer survivors and family and friends who have been pushing our legislative bodies and regulatory agencies to investigate many of these compounds experimentally.

But the unfortunate thing is there are so many chemicals in our environment, and there isn't enough money in the world to study all of them in animal studies, let alone major epidemiological human studies. So policy decisions must be made, absent definitive data.

We must work together, not just the breast cancer advocacy groups, but many other advocacy groups. Many of these chemicals don't just affect breast cancer; often they're harmful to the cardiovascular system, and other systems may be involved too. So we need to think wisely about what we as a nation want to do about many of these compounds. These are really policy level decisions that will have to be made, in the absence of real data.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Environmental Issues and Breast Cancer featured Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H.,  Sue Heffelfinger andDevra Davis answering your questions abouthow the environment can affect breast cancer risk and ways to reduce this risk.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in August 2005.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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