University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) cancer epidemiologist, and Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Susan Sturgeon, MPH, DrPH, has received a $462,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand her research into the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on the breast density of college-age women.
Susan Sturgeon, MPH, DrPH
A previous study focusing on older women found that exposure to plasticizers, such as phthalates and bisphenol A, as well as related compounds in common household and personal care items, can increase breast density. Environmental chemical exposure is thought to affect breast density by increasing levels of estrogen and inflammation. High breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer. Studies with premenopausal women in Mexico and Canada have also noted associations between environmental exposures and breast cancer risk.
Dr. Sturgeon’s study, which will be conducted at UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences’ Models to Medicine Center, will measure the effects of environmental exposure on the breasts of young women “during a window of potential increased susceptibility,” Dr. Sturgeon stated. Animal studies suggest mammary cells are more susceptible to environmental chemicals during breast development up to and through pregnancy. Dr. Sturgeon and colleagues will recruit 100 undergraduate female students at UMass Amherst who have never given birth to participate.