Our neighborhood may influence our cancer risk

December 16, 2010 by  
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Moving out from where you live is not easy especially if you live in a good neighborhood.  Everyone wants to live in a good neighborhood, where you feel you belong, where you get help when you need it, where you feel safe and don’t have to worry about being attacked.  Well, this is normal and also reasonable.  A good neighborhood can be beneficial to your health. 

Of course what is really good is relative but a study defines this as a racially mixed neighborhood with lower crime rates.  At least for older people this can have an influence.   To be more exact, you can have higher chances of developing cancer if you live in neighborhoods which are racially separated and have higher crime rates, says a joint study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.  The study computed the chances to be 31% higher for older men and 25% for older women (50 years old and above).  The head of the research, Vicki Freedman, finds it “remarkable“ that although men and women develop various types of cancer due to their gender differences, the chances of developing cancer given this relationship are similar in strength.   According to Dr. Freedman

(it) suggests that a nonspecific biological mechanism may be involved, possibly stress response that interrupts the body’s ability to fight the development of cancer cells”.

 It has always been thought that socioeconomic factors such as social deprivation and lifestyle like smoking, diet and lack of sport or exercise explain the link between racial segregation and health.  However, researchers found that „segregation and crime increased the chances of developing cancer even after controlling for socioeconomic resources at both the individual and the neighborhood levels“.  The researchers took a look as well at other factors such as exposure to air pollution and other toxins in their surroundings but found the influence of crime rates and racial segregation on the onset of cancer to be independent of these confounding factors.

 The social and biological mechanisms underlying these findings are really complex and are not easy to explain.  Years of research will be needed till we fully understand these relationships. Till then, we should choose carefully where we live. If we have the choice.

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