The "Growing Up Female" study is part of
a $33 million nationwide investigation. It will track about 450 girls
for six years to determine how chemicals in the air, water, and food
and physical, biological, social and genetic factors determine female
development and maturation - and possibly the risk of developing breast
The Cincinnati component of the study
will be conducted by scientists at the College of Medicine and
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). It will be
supported by a $9.6 million, 7-year grant from the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health
(NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
"Sources of environmental exposure are
difficult to determine, because we eat and drink cancer-causing
chemicals every day," says Sue Heffelfinger, MD, PhD, associate
professor and codirector of UC's new Breast Cancer and the Environment
Of 2,800 commonly used chemicals, she
says, 44 have been proven to cause breast cancer in animals. Most
studies to date, however, focused on the harm each chemical causes
independently, not on how chemicals interact with genetic variations
that make some people more likely to be harmed by exposure.
The Cincinnati researchers, says Robert
Bornschein, PhD, director of UC's Department of Environmental Health,
will monitor the girls' hormone levels and test for heavy metals like
lead, pesticides such as DDT, phytoestrogens, and compounds found in
plastics. This study will also document how diet, exercise, stress and
obesity affect development during puberty.
M. Kathryn Brown, PhD, associate
professor of environmental health, has worked closely with the local
breast cancer advocacy community to make "Growing Up Female" work.
"This project is possible because of the advocates' untiring efforts to
promote breast cancer research, and their willingness to work
side-by-side with us," Dr. Brown said.