State’s Female Teachers Have Higher Cancer Rates Than Women in General Population, Study Finds
Female teachers in the state have a 51% higher rate of breast cancer and a 72% higher rate of uterine cancer than women in the general population, according to a new study conducted by California researchers, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the study, published in this month's issue of the journal Cancer Causes & Control, researchers tracked the health of 133,000 female active or retired public school teachers in California since 1995 (Los Angeles Times, 10/2). Participants received a questionnaire on their reproductive histories, family cancer histories, tobacco and alcohol use, exercise levels, height and weight measurements and other health factors when the study began. In the next two to three years, researchers monitored the state Cancer Registry for names of study participants and found that, in addition to a higher rate of breast and uterine cancers, women in the study had a 59% higher rate of melanoma, a 47% higher rate of lymphoma and a 28% higher rate of ovarian cancer.
Although the causes of the increased cancer rates are not clear, researchers said that "much of the risk may be explained by the teachers' reproductive histories," the Sacramento Bee reports (Lau, Sacramento Bee, 10/2). Study participants were more likely to take hormones after menopause, less likely to have children and more likely to begin families "several years later in life," factors "known" to increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancers, according to the Times. The study also found that participants were less likely to smoke, which made them 34% less likely to have lung cancer, and more likely to have regular examinations from a physician, which made them 47% less likely to have cervical cancer (Los Angeles Times, 10/2). Leslie Bernstein, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California and co-author of the study, said, "Right now, there's no way to directly compare (the teachers) with professional women in general. But I would predict that we would see very much the same thing" (Sacramento Bee, 10/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.