PHILADELPHIA (March 27, 2017) – Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center have created a new computational approach to determine whether neighborhood circumstances can influence the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. The neighborhood-wide association study (NWAS) compared more than 14,000 neighborhood variables with prostate cancer aggressiveness, and identified 17 neighborhood variables that were most significantly associated with advanced prostate cancer in white men. The paper appears in the following link: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0174548
Lead author Shannon Lynch, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase, and her colleagues, applied methods from large-scale genetic studies to publicly available U.S. Census data in order to comprehensively evaluate the effect of neighborhood variables on aggressive prostate cancer. The two variables most significantly associated with prostate cancer aggressiveness related to neighborhood poverty and mode of transportation to work. The associations with neighborhood-level income, housing, employment, social support, and immigration status were also significant.
The NWAS approach can be broadly applied to large-scale public health data and has implications for health disparities research, Lynch said. Although it will need to be tested in other studies, the development of a method that is common to both genetics and the neighborhood or social environment in which people live could have relevance to the Precision Medicine Initiative, as it calls for consideration of not only genetic and lifestyle factors but also the environment to improve health outcomes.
Lynch and her colleagues previously presented their new methodology at the first Conference on Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Population Sciences organized by the National Cancer Institute and at the American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.