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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Early Menarche Linked to Aggressive Breast Cancer in African American Women

Early age at menarche, or the first menstrual cycle, could play a role in the disproportionate incidence of estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancers diagnosed among African American women, according to a study co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is a result of a multicenter collaborative research effort that formed the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk Consortium (AMBER). AMBER researchers investigated the epidemiologic and genetic causes for more aggressive breast cancer in African American women. They combined four epidemiologic studies with large numbers of African American participants: the Black Women’s Health Study, the Multiethnic Cohort Study, the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, and the Women’s Circle of Health Study.

Analysis of data from 4,426 African American women diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 17,000 women without the disease showed that the pathways to ER-negative and ER-positive breast cancer appear to be different. A reduced risk of ER-positive breast cancer with later age at menarche was primarily observed among women who previously had children, with the greatest increased risk for those with longer spans between menarche and childbirth. However, for ER-negative breast cancer, childbirth status had no impact on the protective effects of later age at menarche.

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