, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 206-222

Time series analysis supporting the hypothesis that enhanced cosmic radiation during germ cell formation can increase breast cancer mortality in germ cell cohorts

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 Techniques from cancer epidemiology and time series analysis were used to explore the hypothesis that cosmic radiation can induce germ cell changes leading to increases in future breast cancer mortality. A birth cohort time series for female breast cancer mortality was obtained using a model-independent, age-period-cohort analysis on age-specific mortality data for 1940–1990. The birth cohort series contained several oscillatory components, which were isolated and compared to the corresponding frequency components of a cosmic ray surrogate time series – Greenland ice-core 10Be concentrations. A technique, referred to as component wave-train alignment, was used to show that the breast cancer and cosmic ray oscillations were phase-locked approx. 25 years before the time of birth. This is consistent with the time of germ cell formation, which occurs during the fetal development stage of the preceding generation. Evidence is presented that the observable oscillations in the birth cohort series were residues of oscillations of much larger amplitude in the germ cell cohort, which were attenuated by the effect of the broad maternal age distribution. It is predicted that a minimum of 50% of breast cancer risk is associated with germ cell damage by cosmic radiation (priming event), which leads to the development of individuals with a higher risk of breast cancer. It is proposed that the priming event, by preceding other steps of carcinogenesis, works in concert with risk factor exposure during life. The priming event is consistent with epigenetic changes such as imprinting.

Received: 10 June 1996 / Revised: 4 December 1996 / Accepted: 19 December 1996