Lifestyle Factors May Help Prevent Aggressive Forms of Breast Cancer in African-American Women

Editor's note: Additionally, more than 30 Roswell Park teams were invited to present research in poster presentations at the meeting. Learn more about highlighted abstracts presented by Roswell Park researchers and clinicians at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013.

BUFFALO, NY — Evidence has shown for decades that African-American women with breast cancer have poorer outcomes than women of European descent, but even robust genomic studies have not identified clear links that might explain these trends. Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (Roswell Park), will explore the implications of this research at a major symposium during the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, where more than 18,000 attendees are expected to share the latest and most exciting discoveries in cancer research.

Dr. Ambrosone, who is also a member of the federal Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee, is one of four speakers invited to participate in “Why Are Aggressive Forms of Cancer More Common Among Certain Racial/Ethnic Groups?” a major symposium organized by the AACR’s Minorities in Cancer Research membership group. Her presentation, to be delivered Tuesday, April 9, from 11:20 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. in Room 144 of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., is titled “Lifestyle factors and risk of aggressive forms of breast cancer among African-American women.”

Surveying published research, Dr. Ambrosone will review and interpret evidence on possible connections between modifiable factors and cancer risk among African-American women. She will note that identification of lifestyle factors that might lower or eliminate risk of the more-fatal forms of breast cancer — including tumors that are ER-negative, or lacking the estrogen receptor (ER) — could significantly reduce or perhaps eliminate race-based disparities in cancer incidence.

“We know that while having children reduces risk of ER-positive breast cancer, which is typically associated with better prognoses, having children actually increases risk of the more aggressive and dangerous ER-negative tumors, which are more common in African-American women. Breastfeeding eliminates that increased risk,” says Dr. Ambrosone. “So promotion of breastfeeding among African-American women could potentially reduce the higher prevalence of more aggressive tumors in this group, with potential for significant, life-saving impact on risk and incidence.”

Dr. Ambrosone will also review Roswell Park research on dietary factors and the role of vitamin D. “It appears that low vitamin D levels are associated with more aggressive breast cancers,” she says. “We’ve found that greater proportions of African-American women are deficient in vitamin D, which could account, in part, for the higher prevalence of ER-negative tumors in this group of women.”

A panel discussion will follow the four presentations that are part of this symposium.


The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Roswell Park, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit Roswell Park’s website at, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email

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