NYU Women's Health Study Current Projects
Since the time of the volunteers’ recruitment, investigators of the NYU Women’s Health Study have conducted numerous projects examining factors affecting the development of various cancers and other chronic diseases. Some of our current projects are described below.
AMH, age at menopause, and risk of breast cancer
We are conducting a study of the relation between premenopausal levels of Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) in the blood and breast cancer risk. AMH is produced by the ovaries and is a good measure of a woman’s remaining egg supply. When only a small number of eggs remain in the ovaries, menopause occurs. Some studies indicate that a higher level of AMH in the blood is a good predictor of an older age at menopause. Since an older age at menopause is a risk factor for breast cancer, this suggests that women with high blood levels of AMH may be at higher risk of breast cancer than women of the same age with lower AMH blood levels. We are conducting a study to examine whether AMH could help, in combination with family history of breast cancer and other variables, predict the risk of breast cancer for women who have not yet reached menopause.
Knowing her risk of breast cancer could help a woman decide when to start screening for breast cancer and how often to get screening mammograms. It could also help her decide whether to take medications that have been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer, such as tamoxifen. Because these medications increase the risk of other diseases, women and their health providers need to weigh the benefits versus the risks of taking them. The study is funded by the US National Cancer Institute and includes ten cohorts from the US, the UK, Sweden and Italy. In addition to examining whether blood levels of AMH help predict risk of breast cancer, we will examine how well they predict age at menopause.
Neighborhood Walkability and Health
Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Physical activity reduces the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases, and the CDC recommends that adults 65 years of age or older engage in two and a half hours every week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. Studies have shown that walking is associated with a lower risk of obesity, obesity-related diseases, and death from any cause.
Neighborhood characteristics can influence physical activity habits. New technologies and access to databases and maps have enabled scientists to compute neighborhood walkability, which is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. Neighborhood walkability can be measured based on the density of houses and other buildings, accessibility to stores and to other common destinations in day-to-day life, and distance to public transportation. In collaboration with researchers at Columbia University, we are funded by the National Cancer Institute to conduct geospatial analysis and measure neighborhood walkability in the areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida where NYU Women’s Health Study participants reside. We plan to evaluate in the near future whether the walkability in these neighborhoods is related to long-term health. The results from our study may have an important impact by helping to determine how urban neighborhoods could be modified to improve the health of their residents.
New Tumor Tissue Research
The NYU Women’s Health Study has begun to collect breast cancer tumor tissue. Recent research has shown that there is great variability in the molecular makeup of each breast cancer--not all breast tumors are alike. Certain proteins on breast tumor cells can be used to classify breast cancers into subtypes, and we do not know yet whether factors that predispose a woman to develop breast cancer are different for different subtypes. This is because most studies up until recently have lumped all breast cancers together.
We are now asking NYU Women’s Health Study participants for authorization to collect breast tumor tissue. Collaborators in the Departments of Pathology and Immunohistochemistry at NYU Langone Medical Center will measure various markers which will allow us to perform analyses of potential risk factors related to specific tumor subtypes. We have also started expanding this research to the study of other cancers, including colorectal, uterine (womb), ovarian and lung cancers. Through these studies including tumor tissue, the NYU Women’s Health Study cohort will continue to contribute to new developments in cancer research with the ultimate goal of developing preventive approaches.
NYU Women's Health Study Collaborations
The NYU Women’s Health Study participates in various projects initiated by the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium. In these projects, prospective epidemiologic studies from around the world collaborate to address important scientific questions that require data from very large numbers of individuals. Projects we are participating in with other cohorts include:
- Biliary Tract Cancer Pooling Project
- Biomarkers of Polyoma Virus Infection and Lung Cancer among Non-smokers
- Consortium of Contralateral Breast Cancer (CCBC)
- Diabetes and Cancer Initiative in the Cohort Consortium
- Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group
- Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium (E2C2)
- Helicobacter Pylori Protein-specific Antibodies and Colorectal Cancer Risk
- Genome-Wide Association Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)
- Liver Cancer Pooling Project
- Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3)
- Ovarian Cancer Cohort Consortium (OC3)
- Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan)
- Premenopausal Breast Cancer Collaborative Group
- Pooling Project of Prospective Studies of Diet and Cancer
- Prospective Study of Serum MIS and Gynecologic Cancer Risk
- Vitamin D Pooling Project of Breast and Colorectal Cancer