NYU Women’s Health Study Current Research
NYU Women’s Health Study investigators, in NYU Langone’s Department of Population Health, have conducted numerous studies examining factors that affect the development of various cancers and other chronic diseases, using longitudinal data from our large study cohort. We are currently working on the following projects.
Anti-Müllerian Hormone, Age at Menopause, and Breast Cancer Risk
We are conducting a study of the relationship 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. Our study examines whether AMH, in combination with family history of breast cancer and other variables, could help 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 National Cancer Institute (NCI) and includes 10 cohorts from the United States, United Kingdom, 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
We are conducting geospatial analysis and measuring neighborhood walkability, a measure of how “friendly” a neighborhood is for walking, in the areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida where NYU Women’s Health Study participants reside. We plan to evaluate whether a neighborhood’s walkability is related to the long-term health of its residents. Neighborhood characteristics can influence physical activity habits, which, in turn, affect the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases (such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers) and death from any cause. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults 65 years of age or older engage in 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week.
To conduct our study, we are using new technologies, databases, and maps that enable scientists to compute neighborhood walkability. Neighborhood walkability can be calculated by measuring the density of houses and other buildings, the accessibility of stores and other destinations commonly visited in day-to-day life, and the distance to public transportation. The results from our study may help determine how urban neighborhoods could be modified to improve the health of residents.
We are funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and are collaborating with researchers at Columbia University.
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 grouped all breast cancers together.
We are now asking NYU Women’s Health Study participants for authorization to collect breast tumor tissue. Collaborators in NYU Langone’s Department of Pathology will measure various markers that 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, 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.
We participate in the NCI Cohort Consortium, in which prospective epidemiological study teams from around the world pool large quantities of data and biospecimens from individuals to address important scientific questions. We are participating in the following projects with other cohorts:
- 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