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Faculty & Staff Honors

UMass: New Study Will Investigate Impact of Environmental Exposure on Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women

University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences Professor of Epidemiology Dr. Susan Sturgeon has received a $462,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand her research into the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on the breast density of college-age women. High breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer.

A previous study focusing on older women found that exposure to plasticizers such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), as well as related compounds found in common household and personal care items, can increase breast density. Studies with premenopausal women in Mexico and Canada have noted associations between environmental exposures and breast cancer risk.

Dr. Sturgeon, whose research focuses on the epidemiology of hormonally related cancers, hopes the study will shed new light on the suspected link between environmental exposure, breast density and breast cancer risk in young women.

“The link between environmental chemicals and breast cancer risk is not clear, and it is challenging to study. Measuring breast density by MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] makes this kind of study possible in younger women, eliminating radiation risk from mammography,” Dr. Sturgeon says.

Dr. Sturgeon and colleagues will measure participants’ urinary levels of bisphenol A (BPA), bisphenol S (BPS), Bisphenol F (BPF), seven phthalate metabolites, oxybenzone, four parabens, triclosan, triclocarbon and two other phenols in a pooled urine specimen from 24-hour collections on three spaced days prior to computerized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

“The study is innovative because of the multiple time-point exposure measurements, the use of the urinary matrix to measure these chemicals and computerized magnetic resonance imaging to measure breast density in young women,” Dr. Sturgeon says.

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