With the help of sixty women from the local area, we are measuring the amount of cadmium, arsenic, and other metals found in the bodies of the women who live here. This pilot study will examine whether there are residential and lifestyle factors in a mining-impacted community that are associated with increased levels of these metals in women's bodies.
The women are divided into two age groups--18 to 35 and over 35--and then divided again according to length of residency in Gold Country. Each participant provides a sample of urine and toenails, and completes a questionnaire of basic demographic information, diet and regular activities, as well as a full residential history.
Cadmium and arsenic were chosen because they are pervasive throughout Gold Country, and because they are carcinogens and "metalloestrogens" that are considered provocative with respect to breast cancer etiology. The counties that make up Gold Country have consistently higher age-adjusted rates of breast cancer than the rest of the state. In fact, the three most populous counties in Gold Country (Nevada, Placer and El Dorado) have incidence rates in the top 10 of California counties, while the combined incidence in Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties is the second highest in the state. This runs counter to the trend of lower breast cancer rates in more rural areas. After many years of working with the community to collect environmental monitoring data, we are pleased to begin the next step, which is connecting the dots between the health of the environment and that of the humans who live here.