Fox Chase Cancer Center Researchers to Present Data on Neighborhood Environment and Cancer Risk

September 12, 2016

Shannon Lynch, PhD, MPHShannon Lynch, PhD, MPHPHILADELPHIA (September 12, 2016) – Studying neighborhood environments and examining geospatial approaches is an area of rising interest in cancer research. Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers will contribute to this emerging field at the first Conference on Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Population Sciences organized by the National Cancer Institute.

Shannon Lynch, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program, will present the findings of a neighborhood-wide association study, a new computational approach, in which researchers scanned more than 14,000 neighborhood variables from the U.S. Census for associations with prostate cancer aggressiveness. The study revealed 17 neighborhood variables most significantly associated with advanced prostate cancer in white men.  

Lynch and her colleagues applied methods from large-scale genetic studies to publicly available U.S. Census data to comprehensively evaluate the effect of neighborhood variables on aggressive prostate cancer. The two variables most significantly associated with prostate cancer aggressiveness were neighborhood poverty and mode of transportation to work, although the researchers also found significant associations between prostate cancer and neighborhood-level income, housing, employment, social support, and immigration.

Lynch will also present exploratory analyses showing census tracts in Pennsylvania that contain higher percentages of those 17 previously identified variables to speculate if this information can be used to more precisely identify which areas are better targeted for prostate cancer-related interventions.

“Geospatial work and neighborhood research is quickly becoming an important area of cancer research,” Lynch said. “At this conference, experts from different areas will be brought together, which will open up opportunities for future collaboration.”

Carolyn Fang, PhD, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase, will present the findings of a study on breast cancer risk in Chinese women who have immigrated to the United States.

Inflammation has been reported to be associated with increased risk for some cancers, including breast cancer. Fang examined associations of inflammation with breast density, a marker of breast cancer risk, among female Chinese immigrants and explored whether associations varied by neighborhood environment. Studying a sample of 278 Chinese immigrants in three ethnic enclaves in Philadelphia — Chinatown, Northeast Philadelphia, and South Philadelphia — Fang found that the association between inflammation and breast density differed across these three neighborhoods.

“Whether inflammation was associated with a marker of breast cancer risk depended on where the women lived. This suggests that there may be factors in the local neighborhood environment that can confer some protection against biologic processes normally associated with cancer risk,” she said.

Lynch and Fang will both present on Sept. 12, the first day of the three-day conference.

“Using geospatial tools to address key issues in cancer research offers new opportunities to reduce health disparities, particularly in our local communities,” Fang said. “This conference represents a key effort by NCI and cancer researchers to look at how we can come together to accelerate this field forward.”

Kevin Henry, PhD, an assistant professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program, was centrally involved in the conference as a member of the steering committee. He is giving an invited paper during one of the plenary sessions at the conference on Sept. 13.

Nestor F. Esnaola, MD, a surgical oncologist who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers and associate director of Cancer Health Disparities and Community Engagement at Fox Chase, will also attend the conference.

Fox Chase recently received funding to conduct neighborhood and geospatial studies to better understand the needs of the Center’s surrounding community.

“Through these novel geospatial approaches, we can develop a better understanding of risk factors in our communities and devote resources to these communities,” Fang said. “Ultimately the goal is to improve the health of the people living in our local communities. This funding will allow us to continue that work and fulfill our mission.”

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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