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Epidemiologist Trichopoulos receives $5.8 million Department of Defense 'Innovator Award'

Boston, MA - A renowned cancer epidemiologist, HSPH Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos has received a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) "Innovator Award" to explore fetal and early-life factors associated with adult breast cancer, including whether exposure to hormones such as estrogens and insulin-like growth factors while in the womb may cause the disease years later.

The grant, for $5.8 million over five years, is given by the DoD's Breast Cancer Research Program of the Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. The Innovator Award recognizes individuals who have a "history of visionary scholarship, leadership, and creativity."

"There has admittedly been little progress in the prevention of breast cancer, despite efforts in molecular, clinical, and epidemiological research, which have focused on adult life exposures and experiences," said Trichopoulos, Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. "A possible explanation for the slow progress is that a window of opportunity for the prevention of breast cancer lies much earlier in life, as early as in utero or in the first years of life."

Since 1990, Trichopoulos has advanced a theory that exposure to certain levels of naturally occurring hormones amplifies the number of undifferentiated cells in the mammary glands of female fetuses. During cell division in later life, mutations in this broader pool of cells are associated with increased risk for breast cancer. Larger mammary glands have more cells at risk. The size of mammary glands is not reflected in breast size, which is largely determined by body fat.

The theory is supported by evidence presented in epidemiologic studies that indicate certain early-life conditions, such as large birth size, are associated with breast cancer risk. In addition, correlates of mammary gland mass, such as the density of breast tissue, are considered to be predictors of breast canc
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Contact: Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-6052
Harvard School of Public Health
17-Mar-2005


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