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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Identifies Breast Cancer Risk Factors for Black Women

Black women under the age of 45 are at increased risk for an aggressive form of breast cancer—estrogen receptor (ER) negative—if they experienced a high number of pregnancies, never breast fed, and/or had higher waist-to-hip ratio, according to a study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

The findings, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, are significant because they shed light on some “modifiable” risk factors, the researchers said.

Researchers from BU’s Slone Epidemiology Center used 18 years of data from 57,708 African American women enrolled in the Black Women’s Health Study, a follow-up study of the health of African American women in progress since 1995. They evaluated the relation of reproductive factors, measures of body size, and other factors to the incidence of ER-negative and ER-positive breast cancer in both younger and older women.

“Very little is known about how young women can reduce their personal risk of ER-negative breast cancer,” said lead author Dr. Kimberly Bertrand, an epidemiologist at Slone and assistant professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. “Most exciting among our findings is that two of the factors we found to be important—breastfeeding and higher waist-to-hip ratio—are modifiable, which suggests opportunities for risk reduction or prevention.”

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