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A Critique on a Research Article Examining DDT and Breast Cancer in Young Women Essay Sample

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A Critique on a Research Article Examining DDT and Breast Cancer in Young Women Essay Sample


This paper presents a critique on a published research by Cohn, Wolff, Cirillo and Sholtz (2007) in which they examine how the peak use DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane), a synthetic pesticide, can be used to predict the presence of breast cancer. The scientific research is based on previous studies linking DDT exposure to breast cancer. The article emphasizes on the scientific nature of the study with much concentration on the presentation of raw and analyzed data with minimal presentation on related literature. The critique also finds this article to be more targeted to readers who have established knowledge on the subject with strong scientific backgrounds.

A Critique on a Research Article Examining DDT and Breast Cancer in Young Women

The article by Cohn, Wolff, Cirillo and Sholtz (2007) entitled “DDT and Breast Cancer in Young Women: New Data on the Significance of Age at Exposure” can be considered as a significant topic considering that the potential audience that may have interest in the topic are regular people who want information as to how pesticide exposure can potentially cause or determine breast cancer, especially among young women. The research problem is based on previous studies on the topic in which this time, the authors took the subject forward and calibrated the condition on whether DDT exposure during its high concentrations or peak use can determine breast cancer among women.

The article directly states the process executed by means of enumerating the objectives, methods, results and conclusions. In terms of the review of literature, the authors merely presented a summary of past studies in which they hypothesized and presented a conclusion in which DDT exposure cannot be necessarily considered as a risk factor that can cause breast cancer among women. The authors cited a study by Lopez-Cervantes et, al. (2004). In this case, the authors mentioned that these previous studies were limited to conditions which did not include a degree of exposure in which the utilization of DDT is at its heaviest.

From this, the authors presented data on actual subjects, their age and the DDT levels as found in their blood. The theoretical framework of the research was mainly founded on taking a past study and increasing the levels of an important variable which is the DDT. This is a common step in research in which scientists further takes previous studies and cite their scope and limitations as a potential basis for the new research design. From this, the article has designed the research by conducting a scientific investigation involving subjects participating in Child Health and Development Studies, participants from a specific area (Oakland, California) and members of the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan whom, between 1959 and 1957, requested for obstetric care.

The selection of the subject can be considered significant as based on the premise of the research. As based on the research statement, those that can be used as subjects should have had higher exposures to DDT. Since that DDT has been .banned, this research targeted subjects who would have had higher DDT exposure which, according to the authors, can be potentially found from the population from the 1960s, apparently during the time when DDT usage was high. The selection from the California population is also based on these conditions in addition to the authors’ utilization of breast cancer data from the California Cancer Registry and California Vital Status Records (Cohn, et al., 2001, as cited from Cohn, Wolff, Cirillo and Sholtz, 2007).

In addition to the selection of subjects, the authors also used blood samples for serum analysis that were collected from 1959-1967. For consistency, the authors identified a mean age and established a means to calibrate certain data which did not have reported inputs such as the o,p’-DDT in which case the authors imputed o,p’,-DDT; both are terms for primary components as found in commercial DDT (Cohn, Wolff, Cirillo and Sholtz, 2007). In this kind of scientific research, it is important to make sure the consistency across different variables. In this case, it was observed that the scientists emphasized the details on how they would make sure that the amount and quality of data are consistent, if not calibrated similarly, across the subjects. This article therefore shows the heavier technical side of scientific research in which all these details are critical. Examples are the utilization of the risk variable domains such as race, blood lipids, and other significant factors.

This theme further dominates the article in which the authors presented more scientific data and adjustments the experiment had to implement. The article presented the results through tables and figures which contain both raw data and variable controls, in addition to important notes with regards to the numbers and variables.  Basically, for such research statement, it can be gathered that the result can be simply presented whether the hypothesis was true or not as based on the experiment conducted. Since this would be over-simplifying the research, the authors had to present supporting data albeit its technicalities and terms that may not be easily understandable to the regular reader.

In terms of the presentation, a bigger bulk of the explanation and presentation on the background of the study can be seen in the results section. This further explains the variables such as metabolical rate, direct exposure at certain age, biologic activity, and how the DNA can be also considered as a contributor to the damage. This study can be also considered to be different from the results of previous studies. This is mentioned by the authors and explained the discrepancies. The discrepancies cited are based on the varying ingestions of the commercial grade DDT.

The research therefore concludes that exposure to p,p’-DDT, a commercial DDT component, during an early age among women can potentially increase the risk of breast cancer. Even though this study resulted to a different conclusion from previous studies, it can be considered that this result is valid. This is because the variables used by the scientists in this paper further add measures that can support the argument as to how DDT can possibly increase cancer risk given the conditions. In addition, there have been some general knowledge as to potentiality of the adeverse effects of pesticides to health which is why the DDT was banned in the early 1970s (Cohn, Wolff, Cirillo and Sholtz, 2007). Although the previous studies presented a negative direct link between the disease and the exposure, this research presents valid foundations which would give the researchers a foundation as to their conclusions.

In general critique of this paper, it can be observed that Cohn, Wolff, Cirillo and Sholtz presented their research in a more direct manner in a sense that they go straight ahead to relevant data, their methodologies and then their results. Although the presentation can be regarded to be intimidating the regular reader, certain aspects of the paper can be easily comprehended. It is inevitable that the paper will use technical and scientific terms thereby further demonstrating its scientific validity. The authors made sure that the research can be at least understandable through the presentation of key summaries which can be found at the beginning of the research article.

Cohn, B.A., Wolff, M., Cirillo, P.M., & Sholtz, R.I. (2007). DDT and Breast Cancer in Young
Women: New Data on the Significance of Age at Exposure. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115-1406+.

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