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MSU researcher awarded $14 million to identify breast cancer risk factors
Date:9/29/2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. A team of researchers led by a Michigan State University scientist has been awarded $14 million to identify risk factors for breast cancer in young women, focusing on growth, diet, physical activity and body size during a woman's lifetime.

The five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by Ellen Velie of the College of Human Medicine's Department of Epidemiology, will include the largest sample in the United States of black women younger than 50 diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Risk factors for breast cancer vary by age and tumor characteristics, and there hasn't been enough research on breast cancer in young women," Velie said. "Breast cancer in these women often is more aggressive and associated with a worse prognosis."

Though white women and wealthier women (both white and black) are at a higher risk for breast cancer after age 50, black women (and it also appears poorer women) are at increased risk before age 40.

"We don't yet have a clear picture about what causes these distinct patterns," Velie said.

Black women also are at a higher risk for tumors with the worse prognosis, she added.

"This is groundbreaking research because it links the social and nutritional determinants of health during a woman's lifetime with breast cancer in understudied young women," said Marsha D. Rappley, dean of MSU's College of Human Medicine.

By looking at risk factors such as early life growth patterns, physical activity, diet, body size and related genes during a woman's lifetime, Velie and her team hope to identify why women develop tumors with specific characteristics.

"Research shows that early life events, especially during puberty, can impact later risk," she said. "We want to study how these early life factors may modify later risk of breast cancer."

That information then can be used to develop interventions to help women prevent the dis
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Contact: Jason Cody
codyja@msu.edu
517-432-0924
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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MSU researcher awarded $14 million to identify breast cancer risk factors
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