Cancers of the reproductive system are among the leading causes of mortality in women in the United States. While both genetic and environmental factors have been implicated in their etiology, the extent of the contribution of environmental factors to human diseases remains controversial. To better address the role of environmental exposures in cancer etiology, there has been an increasing focus on the development of nontraditional, environmentally relevant models. Our research involves the development of one such model, Gonadal tumors have been described in the softshell clam (Mya arenaria) in Maine and the hardshell clam (Mercenaria spp.) from Florida. Prevalence of these tumors is as high as 40% in some populations in eastern Maine and 60% in Some areas along the Indian River in Florida. The average tumor prevalence in Maine and Florida is approximately 20 and 11%, respectively. An association has been suggested between the use of herbicides and the incidence of gonadal tumors in the softshell clam in Maine. The role of environmental exposures in the development of the tumors in Mercenaria in Florida is unknown, however, there is evidence that genetic factors may contribute to its etiology. Epidemiologic studies of human populations in these same areas show a higher than average mortality rate due to cancers of the reproductive system in women, including both ovarian and breast career. The relationship, if any, among these observations is unknown, Our studies on the molecular basis of this disease in clams may provide additional information on environmental exposures and their possible link to cancer in clams and other organisms, including humans.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rebecca_van_beneden/1/