"A lab of our own": Environmental causation of breast cancer and challenges to the dominant epidemiological paradigm

Phil Brown, Sabrina McCormick, Brian Mayer, Stephen Zavestoski, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Laura Senier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

There are challenges to the dominant research paradigm in breast cancer science. In the United States, science and social activism create paradigmatic shifts. Using interviews, ethnographic observations, and an extensive review of the literature, we create a three-dimensional model to situate changes in scientific controversy concerning environmental causes of breast cancer. We identify three paradigm challenges posed by activists and some scientists: (1) to move debates about causation upstream to address causes; (2) to shift emphasis from individual to modifiable societal-level factors beyond an individual's control; and (3) to allow direct lay involvement in research, which may raise new questions and change how questions are approached, the methods used, and the standards of proof. We use our model to examine controversies about doing scientific research, interpreting scientific results, and acting on science. Ultimately, we aim to understand what impedes construction of new methodologies and knowledge about environmental factors in human disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-536
Number of pages38
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Volume31
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Activism
  • Breast cancer
  • Environmental causation
  • Environmental health
  • Public participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Human-Computer Interaction

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