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 risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases, using longitudinal data from this large study cohort. We are currently working on the following projects.
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. Obesity is a risk factor for 13 cancers, and these cancers are twice as prevalent among women compared to men. 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.
The determination of neighborhood walkability is done in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University.
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. In a large consortium including women from 10 cohorts, including the NYU Women’s Health Study, we observed that higher AMH in the blood was associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Specifically, we observed a 60 percent increase in risk for women with AMH concentrations in the top 25 percent versus the bottom 25 percent.
We also examined 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. We specifically looked at whether AMH and testosterone, another hormone associated with increased risk for breast cancer when measured before menopause, improved the accuracy of the most commonly used model for predicting breast cancer risk. This model is called the Gail model and is also known as the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. However, the associations of AMH and testosterone with risk are of moderate magnitude and they did not improve accuracy of the model substantially. Additional markers will be needed to improve the accuracy of risk prediction to a level that would justify measuring these hormones.
We participate in the NCI Cohort Consortium, in which prospective epidemiological study teams from around the world pool large quantities of data 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