Epidemiological studies and cancer

Environmental factors and prostate cancerZoomZoom
© Joanna Prime

Article published in theCourrier Laval on November 24, 2006.

Environmental factors appear to be implicated in the development of prostate cancer, but which ones? This is what Dr. Marie-Élise Parent of the INRS-Institut Armand Frappier is trying to discover. With the help of her team, she has set up a large study that aims to discover the environmental causes of this disease. The detective epidemiologists are conducting their investigation.

In a face-to-face meeting, the interviewer gathers clues from the patient. "Have you ever drunk coffee or tea at least once a month for at least 1 year? How would you describe your level of physical activity during your adult life, at work, during your leisure activities, or at home? What are your sexual habits?" Other questions concerning the subject’s weight during his lifetime, alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as occupational exposures to chemical substances cover a wide range of possible causal factors.

This confidential information is collected from nearly 1500 prostate cancer patients from all the hospitals in the Montreal metropolitan area. A group of control men who do not have prostate cancer will serve as a reference population. Statistical analyses of these data will test the risk of developing prostate cancer depending on these environmental factors. This type of study, called case-control, should yield its first results in about 5 years.

In Canada, 17,000 men fall victim to prostate cancer every year. "The objective is to identify the factors that could prevent prostate cancer" explains Dr. Parent. Age, family history, and ethnicity are recognized factors that increase the risk of this cancer in men. But we cannot modify these factors. Exposure to chemicals in the workplace and lifestyle factors are some factors on which we can act. Let us increase our knowledge in order to fight prostate cancer.