Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II): Risk Factors for Breast Cancer Among Younger Nurses

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Lead Contact and/or Principal Investigator (PI):

Funded Since: 1989
Funding Source: NCI Extramural Program (Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences; CA055075External Web Site Policy, CA124857External Web Site Policy, and CA050385External Web Site Policy)
Year(s) of Enrollment: 1989
Study Website: http://www.channing.harvard.edu/nhsExternal Web Site Policy

Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II) continues follow-up of more than 116,000 women who in 1989 were enrolled in a prospective study to evaluate potentially modifiable risk factors for major health problems among younger women. In this unique cohort, exposure information has been collected at 2-year intervals in early adult life, and a more than 90 percent response rate has been maintained for follow-up questionnaires.

The aims build upon and extend the original objectives. The investigators are testing the following hypotheses for breast cancer and melanoma - the two most important malignancies in this age group, and are quantifying and characterizing observed associations. The hypotheses are:

  • higher intakes of specific carotenoids, dietary fiber, and unsaturated fat during adolescence and early adult life reduce risk for premenopausal breast cancer, whereas higher dietary glycemic load and intake of saturated fat increase risk;
  • higher levels of physical activity reduce risk for breast cancer (for this aim investigators are evaluating contributions of different activity levels during different stages of life, and assessing the degree to which error in measuring activity or recall bias can account for major inconsistencies in the literature);
  • current use of lower-dose oral contraceptives does not increase breast cancer risk, but long-term use before first pregnancy increases risk;
  • breast-feeding reduces risk for breast cancer among premenopausal women;
  • long duration of oral contraceptive use and low intake of specific antioxidants increase the risk for melanoma; and
  • higher plasma levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 increase breast cancer risk.

The investigators continue to mail questionnaires to participants at 2-year intervals to update information on the primary exposures and relevant covariates, and to ascertain incident cases of cancer and other major illness. For all reported cancers, they seek medical records for confirmation and more detailed characteristics.

Through 2003, the investigators expect to ascertain 1,685 cases of invasive breast cancers and 301 invasive melanomas, thus providing substantial statistical power to address the above hypotheses. A nested case-control study of IGF-1 in relation to breast cancer will utilize the blood specimens that have been collected from about 30,000 participants.

In addition, NHS-II provides the exposure data and initial case identification to examine many other important outcomes among young women.

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