Study will include 5,500 African-American women with breast cancer and an equal number of healthy women.

NCI has committed to give a multidisciplinary team of researchers $19.3 million over five years to study the disparity between breast cancer development in African-American women and women of European descent. The group includes scientists from Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI).

The study will investigate the causes of breast cancer among African-American women. For reasons that are not clear, African-American women are more likely than women of European descent to be diagnosed before age 45 and are also more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive types of breast cancer that are linked to more deaths.

The study will involve 5,500 African-American women from four ongoing studies—the Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS), the Women’s Circle of Health Study (WCHS), the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), and the Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC)—as well as 5,500 controls. Researchers will first develop models for contributions of genetic and nongenetic risk factors for breast cancer subtypes in African-American women.

The researchers will apply a multifaceted approach, investigating genetic susceptibility; reproductive history, lactation, and hormonal factors; body size, early life, and adult physical activity; gene/environment interactions; and other risk factors in relation to breast cancer subtypes. The goal is to discover genetic, biologic, reproductive, and behavioral risks for breast cancer subgroups defined by tumor biology and age at onset of disease.

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