2008

The BWHS contributed data to an analysis of lung cancer among women and men who had never smoked. The analysis was based on data from 13 large follow-up studies and on information from cancer registries. Among people who had never smoked, the death rate from lung cancer was higher in men than in women and higher in African Americans than in whites. The causes remain to be determined. link to online article

Type 2 (“adult onset”) diabetes is a serious and common health problem for African American women. In an analysis based on 2,713 newly-diagnosed cases of diabetes in the BWHS, we found that the risk of developing diabetes was 30% greater in women who drank two or more sugar-sweetened soft drinks of sugar-sweetened fruit drinks per day than in women who rarely drank these drinks. There is increasing public awareness of the adverse health effects of soft drinks but little attention has been given to sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, which are often marketed as a healthy alternative. link to online article

Meat and animal fat consumption have been associated with increased risk of breast cancer in some studies. Based on BWHS data, we found little evidence for an association of intake of red meat, total fat, saturated fat, or dairy products with the overall incidence of breast cancer. There were some associations with a subtype of breast cancer called estrogen receptor negative cancer, but these were based on small numbers and need to be confirmed with a larger sample.

Studies of diet and breast cancer have given conflicting results on whether intake of foods high in sugar increases breast cancer risk. In our study based on 1,091 cases of breast cancer in the BWHS, there was weak evidence of an association. Women who ate at least one sweet a week had a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who ate few sweets but there was not a trend of increasing risk with increasing sweet consumption.

Based on information given by BWHS participants on 7,324 births, we found that the risk of spontaneous preterm birth was increased among women who were thin (body mass index less than 20) or obese (body mass index of 30 or more) before the pregnancy, compared with women who had a body mass index of 20-24.

We found that frequent consumption of food from restaurants was associated with increased incidence of diabetes, based on 2,846 newly occurring cases. Fast food consumption has increased greatly in the U.S. in recent years, and it is likely that a large proportion of these restaurant meals were from fast food restaurants.

For three cities, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, we obtained detailed data on “urban form”, such as the presence of sidewalks and the distance to bus stops. We found that BWHS participants in those cities who lived in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods spent more time walking for transport (to work, shops, church, etc) than women in less pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. Results such as these are important for persuading city planners to ensure that neighborhoods are constructed to be pedestrian-friendly.

We found that the occurrence of newly-diagnosed asthma increased with increasing weight, and women with a body mass index of 40 or more had almost three times the risk of asthma as women with a body mass index of 20-24.

We examined changes in dietary patterns in relation to weight gain, based on food intake information that BWHS participants provided in 1995 and 2001. Two diet patterns, “prudent”(high in fruits and vegetables) and “western” (high in meat and high-fat dairy) were assessed. Decreased intake of a prudent diet and increased intake of a western diet were associated with more weight gain.

We examined the relation between neighborhood socioeconomic status and certain markers in the blood that are thought to be predictors of heart disease. Based on blood samples given by 486 BWHS participants, we found that women living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods had the least favorable levels of HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein.

In a study based on 1,189 newly occurring cases, we found that BWHS participants who were obese or who had gained a great deal of weight during adulthood were at increased risk of developing polyps in the colon or rectum. In future studies, we will assess the type of polyp affected, because a certain type of polyps, adenomatous polyps, is thought to be a predictor of the occurrence of colorectal cancer. link to online article