Women who are teachers, religion workers or librarians have a significantly greater chance of dying from breast cancer than homemakers or other women in nonprofessional occupations, according to a federal study to be released today.
The study, which has already prompted special campaigns from two major teachers' groups, is the first to link breast cancer deaths with occupation on a large scale.
Carol Hogfoss Rubin, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said her findings do not indicate that the occupations themselves are causing breast cancer, but rather that other outside factors associated with them -- such as delayed childbearing -- may be to blame.
Studying 2.9 million death certificates from 1979 through 1987, Ms. Rubin and fellow researchers looked at breast cancer deaths.
They found that professional women, overall, had higher rates of breast cancer death than nonprofessional women. Nuns, clergywomen, teachers and librarians had the most elevated rates among white women. Their risk of dying from the disease was 62 percent to 65 percent greater than women in the average population, the study said.
Also at higher risk -- in decreasing order -- were white counselors, mathematicians, computer scientists, secretaries, finance officers, pharmacists, supervisors, bank tellers, clerks, lawyers, judges, managers and administrators, and nurses.
The risk was especially pronounced for black professional women. The study found that black physicians, lawyers, judges and pharmacists were three to six times more likely than other women to die from the disease.