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Iowa Researchers Receive Funding to Study Links Between Environmental Exposures, Breast and Thyroid Cancers

University of Iowa College of Public Health researchers are leading a team of investigators from Iowa, Wake Forest School of Medicine, and University of Maryland College of Behavioral and Social Sciences that has received funding to explore links between certain cancers and environmental factors.

The study, led by Dr. Paul Romitti from the UI department of epidemiology at the College of Public Health, will investigate prenatal and postnatal exposures that may be linked to the development of breast and thyroid cancer in young adult women aged 20-39 years.

Breast and thyroid cancers represent an increasing health threat to young adult women in the United States. Data from the U.S. SEER Cancer Registry from 1992-2011 suggest that incidence of Stage I-III hormone receptor-positive breast cancer — in particular, high-grade disease which carries a worse prognosis — is increasing in women ages 20-39 years.

“Of the 13 SEER registries studied, Iowa women ages 20-29 and 30-39 years, respectively, had the second and fourth highest rates of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, making this an important health issue for Iowa women,” Dr. Romitti said. The number of newly diagnosed cases of thyroid cancer has also increased among young adult women from 1974-1983 to 2004-2013.

Risk factors associated with these types of cancer in young women are not well studied, particularly those that occur early in life.

[Photo: Dr. Paul Romitti]

“With our available data resources, we will begin to examine the role that lifetime environmental exposures, from birth to diagnosis, play in the development of breast or thyroid cancer in young adult Iowa women.” Dr. Romitti said.

Funding for this study stems from a cooperative research program established by the University of Iowa Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC). The cooperative program seeks to leverage research funding from university, state, and federal entities to conduct research in areas of mutual interest. The grant program aims to establish innovative lines of environmental health research leading to preliminary results and further larger grant funding from federal and private sources. The collaboration requires matching funds from participating entities.