White Bay Area Women Have Some of the Highest Breast Cancer Rates in the Worldwide
Although researchers for years have reported that women in Marin County have the highest rate of breast cancer in the Bay Area, data released by the Northern California Cancer Center, a regional registry and research institution, indicates that women in San Francisco County have breast cancer rates similar to Marin County, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The breast cancer rate in the Bay Area is 9% higher than in the rate in the rest of the state, and the incidence of breast cancer is 6% to 8% higher in San Francisco and Marin counties than in other Bay Area counties, according to the latest information from the Department of Finance and the Office of Vital Records. From 1997 to 2001, San Francisco's invasive cancer rate rose to 178.9 per 100,000 women, and Marin's fell to 176.6 per 100,000 women, according to the data.
In both counties, elevated breast cancer rates occur mostly in women between ages 40 and 69; the disease often is limited to early stage cancers; and it most often develops in a lobe rather than in the milk duct, the Chronicle reports.
In addition, the data shows that Latinas in the Bay Area had higher rates of breast cancer than women in other ethnic groups.
Further, according to the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, white women in the Bay Area have a rate of invasive breast cancer second in the world only to women in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Although cancer experts are not certain why the Bay Area has "excess" breast cancer rates, some "suspect that the higher-than-average socio-economic status of Bay Area women may correspond to higher proportions of known risk factors -- such as never having given birth or having had a child when they were over age 30," according to the Chronicle (Kay , San Francisco Chronicle, 11/8).
Scientists believe genetic predisposition toward breast cancer accounts for less than 10% of the total number of cases and that lifestyle and reproductive factors might account for about 40%, but they are not sure about the cause of the other half of breast cancer cases, the Chronicle reports.
Researchers have difficulty designing studies that isolate "a single culprit" for breast cancer because "so many elements are intertwined," including a lifetime of exposure to toxic chemicals and exposure to a woman's own hormones, according to the Chronicle.
Because the highest rates of breast cancer are found in industrialized nations, some scientists believe manmade chemicals could cause the disease (Kay , San Francisco Chronicle, 11/8).
The breast cancer charity known as the Big Bam Foundation has been accused of misspending donations, the Chronicle reports.
Although the group has said in grant applications that 85% of donations would go toward charitable programs, foundation officials said only 65% went to such programs in 2003. Further, former volunteers and contractors said the actual figure could be "much lower," according to the Chronicle.
In addition, bank records show that Janice Bonadio, Big Bam president and founder, spent thousands of dollars on a vacation, a spiritual counselor and checks to herself. She has said that she reimbursed Big Bam for the thousands of dollars in personal expenses charged to the group.
Tax forms filed with IRS show that 100% of the group's revenue went to management and administrative expenses from 2001 to 2002; it is unclear how much of the revenue actually went to management, the Chronicle reports.
Former volunteers filed the allegations with the California and New York attorneys general. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's (D) office is reviewing the charges and leading the investigation. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) referred a complaint about the Big Bam Foundation to Spitzer's office, which declined to comment about the investigation, according to the Chronicle.
Dan Scheffey, spokesperson for Big Bam, said the not-for-profit group's board also is investigating the allegations and has hired accountants to audit the financial records for the last three years.
"The board is determined to do the right thing and meet all legal and accounting requirements," Scheffey said (Wallack, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/9).