New Zealand study investigates causes of breast cancer

Public health researchers from Massey University are inviting women to take part in a major study of breast cancer.

It is the first nationwide study of the causes of breast cancer since the 1980s, and the first to specifically recruit Maori and Pacific women.

Dr Mona Jeffreys from the University's Centre for Public Health Research says the study will investigate why women get breast cancer.

It is the most common cancer in women, but little is known about what lifestyle factors affect the risk of disease, or what women can do to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer, says Dr Jeffreys. We are aiming to discover whether any aspects of a woman's lifestyle are related to breast cancer.

Researchers will study three groups of women: Maori, Pacific and those who are non-Maori and non-Pacific. The research team includes Maori and Pacific researchers and interviewers.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in New Zealand, after heart disease. About 2,400 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year.

Dr Jeffreys says breast cancer affects one in ten women over the course of their life. We want to get an overview of lifestyle behaviours and exposure factors, such as exercise, alcohol intake and smoking, throughout women's lives, she says. Our aim is to find out what we can do to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed among women aged in their 50s and 60s, although it can affect women of all ages.

The study is supported by funding from the Lottery Grants Board, the Health Research Council and the Cancer Society.


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