Breast Cancer Rises Near Fracking

The Centers for Disease Control has recently reported that while breast cancer rates have been slowly falling in recent years, they are on the rise in several natural gas production counties in Texas. The counties, including Denton County and five surrounding counties, has been the home to the largest concentration of natural gas production, according to a 2010 Texas Commission on Environmental Quality report, which inventoried natural gas production emission sources in 24 counties among the Barnett Shale.

It just so happened that the cancer hike was exclusive to the same counties that had the highest concentration of natural gas production equipment and emissions – which are known to utilize a number of toxic solvents and other chemicals for their natural gas ‘fracking’ production according to some scientists.

It also so happens that while the rest of Texas and the U.S. on average is experiencing lower cancer rates, rates are up in these six counties: Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties. These six counties contain about 3 million people within a 5,000 square mile area.

Breast cancer rates have been falling nationally over the last few years according to the National Cancer Institute. Between 1975 to 1999, breast cancers rose from 103 per 100,000 people to 141 per 100,000. Then the rates dropped since 1999, to 127 per 100,000 in 2008 – the last yearly data published by the Institute.

Meanwhile, according to the Texas Cancer Registry, breast cancer rates among these six counties in Texas has risen by nearly 20% from 2005 to 2008.

Research has increasingly found that breast cancer is linked to toxins. These have included smoking, synthetic hormones and other toxins according to the American Cancer Society. Most experts also agree that poor diet and lack of antioxidants also significantly relate to breast cancer. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute have been funding the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program, which studies causitive elements at laboratories on the east coast and west coast.

“Finding cancer clusters has a very limited application in understanding environmental exposure, since statistical research methods work better when studying things that are big,” Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, told a Denton Record-Chronicle reporter. The Silent Spring Institute is a research group that studies breast cancer risk. The group has found a number of associations between toxins such as solvents and fuel compounds and breast cancer.

Natural gas production has been under fire for their use of potentially toxic chemicals, which they use during the process of drilling through shale using a process called “fracking.” Many states, such as New York, are seeking to limit the amount of potential exposure to these toxins during the production of natural gas. Robert F. Kennedy has reported recently on these efforts.

Medical researchers are currently trying to nail down the precise causes for the uptick in breast cancer rates among these counties – and are closely looking at natural gas production chemical exposure.


This entry was posted in Current Events in Healthcare, Health Literacy, Health Topics by Heather Swift. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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