In 1995 and 1996, 133,479 female teachers and public school professionals in California participated in a large prospective cohort study. Since then, through mailed questionnaires and biological samples, those women have offered information about their respective lifestyles, health and backgrounds.
This huge cache of data has allowed researchers to determine a set of differentiators between women who have developed cancer from those who have not.
Some of the most recent findings from the California Teachers Study include:
Obesity is related to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer
Small-particulate air pollution is related to the risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Smoking and secondhand smoke may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Delayed onset of puberty may be related to an increased risk of thyroid cancer in younger women
A decrease in invasive breast cancer is explained, in large part, by the decline in use of hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms
Now, in an expansion of the California Teachers Study, researchers are collecting blood and saliva samples from more than 20,000 cohort members with no history of any cancer. This large group of biospecimens — combined with data on diet, lifestyle and other factors — will help researchers identify new biomarkers for early detection, predict responses to treatments, and identify genetic and environmental interactions.
The new information could lead to better treatments and, perhaps, the prevention of cancer.