Posted on January 23, 2021

By Jayla Burton, Program Officer

Breast Cancer Action is committed to addressing the root causes of breast cancer and its disparities, from involuntary toxic exposures to the impact of chronic stress as a result of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

For decades, public health researchers have studied how adverse events experienced during childhood correlate with health outcomes in adulthood. Breast Cancer Action is currently a partner in a huge and potentially groundbreaking study, titled Linking Neighborhood and Individual Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to Breast Cancer, lead by Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS). The study poses questions such as: Can where you live affect your breast cancer risk? If so, how? Is there something about living in a racially segregated neighborhood that contributes to breast cancer? What is the impact from generation to generation?

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Our latest podcast episode is with the study’s lead research Principal Investigator, Dr. Barbara Cohn. Titled “The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on Breast Cancer” this interview explores what is unique about this study and its expansive data set, and examines what the preliminary research reveals.

Although the research team is in the early stages of analyzing the data, we’ve already seen some incredibly thought-provoking results. For example, we now know that the trauma of having one or both parents die impacts breast density, risk for breast cancer, and risk for especially aggressive types of breast cancer. Data like this has many implications. What this is showing is that trauma changes the body on an anatomical level.

As the community Principal Investigator, BCAction’s role is to help guide the analysis with the goal of gaining new understanding of how factors such as neighborhood, income level, stress levels, and environmental exposures affect breast cancer risk. Because the study was started in Oakland and includes a huge cohort of Black women, we can also ask questions about how the stress of racism, segregation, and the unequal burden of toxic exposures affect Black communities.

Listen to the episode now to learn more about ACEs and breast cancer risk, and check out the blog post by podcast host Heather Sarantis explaining even more about the study.

We’re proud to be a partner in this study. As a health justice and activist organization, BCAction has a unique role in helping shape how research can focus on primary prevention and directly address healthcare disparities. Join us by learning more.