Embrace: Environmental Impact on Incidences of Breast Cancer

December 27, 2023

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Duke University Medical Center is examining the impact one’s environment can have on health outcomes, specifically incidences of breast cancer. The study was focused on North Carolina because of the “diverse population of 10 million spread over 100 rural and urban counties with varying environmental conditions.” (Duke University Medical Center, 2023) Researchers analyzed the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) which assesses an area based on “air, water, land, built, and sociodemographic environments,” (EPA, 2023). EQI data in North Carolina and incidences of breast cancer were analyzed for any correlations. Additionally, researchers examined the stages of breast cancer and focused on the area in which the individuals are located at (2023).

Duke University Medical Center reported the following:

“In counties with poor overall environmental quality compared to those with good environmental quality, total breast cancer incidence was higher by 10.82 cases per 100,000 persons. This association was most pronounced for localized breast cancer.” (2023)

Findings also reported that counties with poor land quality, such as those exposed to more chemicals, had increased incidences of breast cancer. The research completed by Duke University Medical Center shows that there is a correlation between EQI data and reported incidences of breast cancer.

Another research study was published by the National Institutes of Health that focused on the effects of air pollution and breast cancer incidences. Research performed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute focused on particulate matters in communities and if they impacted the rates at which individuals were diagnosed with breast cancer ( NIH, 2023). Particulate matter, also referred to as PM, is “the term for a mixture of solid particles found in the air.” (EPA, 2023) Following the study, researchers identified that individuals who live in areas with higher levels of PM had increased rates of breast cancer incidence. Additionally, researchers found that certain types of breast cancer, such as ER+, had a correlation with increased rates of air pollution (NIH, 2023).

The studies highlight the growing health disparities for individuals that reside in areas with poor environmental quality and the impact it can have on an individual’s health. If you would like to read more about the studies, please find the information below.

To access the study on air pollution and incidences of breast cancer, click here.

To access the study on EQI and breast cancer, click here.


Duke University Medical Center. (2023, November 20). Urban environmental exposures drive increased breast cancer incidence, finds study. MedicalXpress. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-11-urban-environmental-exposures-breast-cancer.html

National Institutes of Health. (2023, September 11). High levels of particulate air pollution associated with increased breast cancer incidence. MedicalXpress. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-09-high-particulate-air-pollution-breast.html

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). Environmental quality index (eqi). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/healthresearch/environmental-quality-index-eqi

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). Particulate matter (pm) basics. Retrieved from




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