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 Teacher Study include:
Obesity is related to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer
Small-particulate air pollution is related to the risk death from cardiovascular disease
Smoking and secondhand smoke may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin 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 Teacher 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.
The California Teachers Study, a more than two-decade long study of more than 133,000 teachers, started in 1994, but its eventual principle investigator, Leslie Bernstein of City of Hope, was dreaming about making her mark -- and making a difference -- long before then.
Just before the California Teachers Study started, Leslie Bernstein, now a researcher at City of Hope cancer center, was making a big splash in breast cancer research.
Bridget Marshall, a former patient and current employee at City of Hope, one of the centers out of which the study is run, also has been a participant in the California Teachers Study for more than two decades.
James Lacey, Jr., Ph.D., who now runs the California Teachers Study, is taking on the role of disruptor, as he transforms how study data is collected and shared.
Researcher James Lacey Jr., Ph.D., wants to pool data from the California Teachers Study and other studies to create a personalized prevention tool.