Importance of early environmental exposure pinpointed in study of breast cancer development

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Where a woman lives at birth and puberty may have an impact on her risk of developing breast cancer later, findings from a novel study conducted by geographers and epidemiologists at the University at Buffalo have shown.

Taking residential history data provided by a cohort of women with breast cancer and controls in Western New York, and using geographic positioning technology, the researchers showed that the women who developed breast cancer were more likely to have lived closer together at birth and at menarche, a concept called clustering, than women who didn't develop breast cancer.

The findings indicate that there may be something in the environment close to these clusters that influences a woman's breast-cancer risk, said Jo Freudenheim, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and senior author on the study.

Only a few prior studies have examined these time periods for cancer risk, and none have focused on environmental exposures, she said.

Results of the research were presented on June 21 during an "environmental spotlight session" at the annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiological Research.

"Not too long ago, researchers were looking only at relatively recent environmental exposure, maybe in the last 10 years, when we were studying the relationship of environment to breast-cancer risk," Freudenheim said.

"Recently we've come to understand that breast-cancer risk may be influenced by events early in life. These data support that hypothesis. The next step is to identify where these places are and see if we can identify exposures that explain the clusters."

Freudenheim is principal investigator on a three-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to study the possible link between breast cancer and early environmental exposure to potential carcinogens. The current presentation represent

Contact: Lois Baker
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo

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