Information on dietary intake provided in 1995 and 2001 was analyzed in relation to the occurrence of breast cancer. The overall incidence of breast cancer was similar in women whose diets were high in fruit and vegetables and those whose diets were low in fruits and vegetables. However, a specific type of aggressive breast cancer, estrogen receptor negative cancer, occurred less frequently in women whose intake of vegetables was high. When specific vegetables were considered, we found that cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, and cabbage) and carrots were associated with a reduced overall risk of breast cancer. link to online article

Many studies have reported that drinking coffee, tea, and alcohol may be associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, but there have been no studies in African American women. We examined the relation of consumption of these drinks to risk of type 2 diabetes in the BWHS, based on dietary intake reported in 1995 and 2001 and on 3,671 newly occurring cases of diabetes. Higher intakes of both caffeinated coffee and alcohol were associated with small reductions in the incidence of diabetes, but decaffeinated coffee and tea were not associated with risk. link to online article

Since 2003, BWHS participants have had the option of completing health surveys on the web rather than completing a paper survey. The cost of developing and processing a returned paper questionnaire is more than that of a returned web questionnaire, primarily due to return postage costs and greater processing time for paper questionnaires. The percentage of BWHS respondents who completed a web questionnaire doubled from 2003 to 2007 from 10% to 20%. Younger participants are more likely to choose the web option, but even participants in their 70’s and 80’s have completed web questionnaires. Even though the web option has increased greatly in popularity, the paper option is still preferred by most BWHS participants. link to online article

Since racial discrimination is a form of chronic psychological stress that might unfavorably affect health, we examined whether perceived experiences of racism are associated with mortality. Based on 920 deaths that occurred during eight years of follow-up in the BWHS, neither institutionalized racism nor everyday experiences of racism was associated with increased overall mortality. There were also no significant associations of experiences of racism with cancer mortality or cardiovascular disease mortality. While these results give no evidence of an unfavorable effect of perceived racism on mortality, longer follow-up is needed. link to online article

Tea and coffee are sources of caffeine and nutrients that may act as antioxidants and affect estrogen metabolism.  In an analysis based on 1,268 new cases of breast cancer, we found no overall association for either tea or coffee with risk of breast cancer. link to online article

Oral contraceptive formulations have changed over time, making it relevant to assess the effect of more recent formulations on breast cancer risk. Based on follow-up of BWHS participants from 1995 to 2007, oral contraceptive use was associated with increased breast cancer risk: risk increased with increasing duration of use among recent users, with a greater effect for estrogen receptor negative breast cancer (based on 279 cases) than for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer (based on 386 cases). Increases in risk associated with short-term use or use in the past were generally small or absent. These results indicate that oral contraceptive formulations used in recent decades may increase breast cancer risk. link to online article

Preliminary analyses of data from the BWHS indicate that women who live in areas conducive to walking (those with high housing density) gain less weight and less often become obese than women who live in more sprawling areas.

Some have suggested that certain risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, may increase the risk of breast cancer. Analyses of BWHS data will assess that hypothesis.

Previous studies have found a positive association between hypertension and risk of uterine fibroids confirmed by hysterectomy. Preliminary analyses of BWHS data suggest that the association may be due to an increased likelihood of diagnosis of fibroids among women with hypertension.

We assessed whether neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with weight change in the BWHS.   Over a period of 10 years, there was greater weight gain among BWHS participants who lived in neighborhoods with lower SES than among participants in higher SES neighborhoods. Once again, BWHS results suggest the need to make changes in the neighborhoods in which people live if we are to combat the epidemic of weight gain and obesity in the U.S. link to online article

Based on work carried out largely among women of European ancestry, it is believed that many individual genetic variants, each of which has a small effect, contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer.  We studied a variant identified in women of European ancestry as being associated with higher breast cancer risk and found a similar association in the BWHS. By genotyping 60 genetic variants throughout that genetic region, we were able to narrow down the position of the genetic variant involved. link to online article

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease whose causes are largely unknown. Large studies that could advance knowledge of causes, such as the BWHS, rely on self-reported diagnosis information. We found that the self-reports of women who reported a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis together with use of medications specifically prescribed for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (such as methotrexate) were sufficiently accurate to allow for study of causes of the disease in the BWHS. link to online article

The relation of individual level of socioeconomic status (SES) and of neighborhood level SES to the occurrence of diabetes in the BWHS was assessed, based on more than 3800 new cases of diabetes that developed during 12 years of follow-up. Diabetes occurred more often among women who lived in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods compared to women who lived in neighborhoods of high SES, even among women who had high incomes. This result suggests that efforts to reduce the rate of diabetes in African American women need to consider structural changes to disadvantaged neighborhoods. link to online article

Perceived discrimination has been associated with health screening behavior in some populations.  We assessed whether experiences of discrimination, as reported by BWHS participants in 1997, are associated with having had Pap smears, mammography, or colonoscopy. Both everyday discrimination and discrimination on the job, in housing, or by police were associated with not having received a Pap smear. There was no relation between discrimination and mammography or colonoscopy use. link to online article

To determine whether foods high in carbohydrates increase the risk of uterine fibroids, we conducted the first study of dietary glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) in relation to the occurrence of uterine fibroids. GI and GL are measures of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the blood stream have a high GI (for example, white bread), while carbohydrates that break down slowly and release glucose more gradually have a low GI (for example, whole wheat bread). Based on 5800 cases of fibroids that occurred through 2007 among BWHS participants, women with high intake of foods with a high GI were slightly more likely than women with low intakes to develop fibroids. If confirmed in other studies, the finding will provide leads as to the mechanism of fibroid formation. link to online article

The U.S. Institute of Medicine recently issued new guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy in order to reduce the chance of a baby being born preterm (before the 37th week of pregnancy). We studied body size and weight gain during pregnancy in relation to preterm birth in the BWHS, based on 7,840 reported births. We found that women with weight gains during pregnancy in the ranges recommended by the Institute of Medicine had fewer preterm births than women with gains below or above the recommendations. This was especially true for women who were obese: among them, preterm births occurred more than twice as often if the pregnancy weight gain was below or above the recommended amount. Pregnant women should confer with their doctors so that they can aim at the best amount of weight to gain during their pregnancies. link to online article

A few “breast cancer genes” have been discovered that put women at greatly increased risk, but the vast majority of women do not have these genes. The search is on for other genes that may confer small increases or decreases in breast cancer risk. Based on DNA from saliva-mouthwash samples provided by BWHS participants, several genetic variants were found to be associated with small increases in risk in the BWHS. The results require confirmation. link to online article

Mortality rates from colorectal cancer are higher among African Americans than other Americans. Screening by colonoscopy picks up early disease and results in reduced mortality rates. (During a colonoscopy, a flexible tube is inserted into the large intestine, which allows the doctor to see if there are polyps and remove them). In the BWHS, the strongest correlate of colonoscopy use was having used mammography screening. This suggests that concurrent promotion of mammography and colonoscopies may be a good approach to increasing the use of colonoscopies among women. The current recommendation is that people at average risk of colorectal cancer have a colonoscopy beginning at age 50. link to online article

Based on food intake information provided by BWHS participants in 1995 and 2001 and on 2873 new cases of diabetes that developed among BWHS participants during 1995-2005, women who frequently consumed restaurant meals of hamburgers, fried chicken, fried fish or Chinese food were found to have a higher risk of developing diabetes. The increases in risk were greater for burgers and fried chicken. Analyses suggested that the increase in diabetes risk was mostly due to weight gain. Because consumption of “fast foods” like burgers and fried chicken from restaurants is associated with higher intake of fats and sugar sweetened drinks, which are associated with increased risk of diabetes, decreases in consumption of this type of meal are desirable. link to online article

We studied depressive symptoms occurring before pregnancy in relation to preterm birth in the BWHS. Symptoms were measured by responses on the 1999 health survey to the 20 questions of the CES-D scale. Very high levels of depressive symptoms were associated with a higher risk of spontaneous preterm birth. There have been few studies of this issue and the results require confirmation. link to online article

Calcium and other components in dairy foods can reduce cell growth. To test whether this is the case for uterine fibroids (growths in the womb), we analyzed information on food intake from the 1995 and 2001 surveys in relation to the risk of fibroids, which occurred among more than 5,800 BWHS participants during 1995-2007. Women who ate the most milk, cheese, and other dairy products were less likely to develop fibroids than women who ate the least. This new results needs to be confirmed in other studies. link to online article