BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Working to better understand breast cancer in Black women. It’s been the focus of Dr. Christine Ambrosone, Chair of Cancer Prevention at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, for more than 25 years.

“‘Why are Black women more likely to be getting this type of breast cancer than white women?’,” said Dr. Ambrosone, “This is really what got me on my search.”

That question has driven Dr. Ambrosone to be at the forefront of research into the causes and outcomes of breast cancer in Black women. Research that started with Dr. Ambrosone acting as a Principal Investigator for the Women’s Circle of Health Study.

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Dr. Christine Ambrosone is Senior Vice President of Population Science at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo

“I started the study when I was in New York. We enrolled newly diagnosed women, Black women, and White women, and interviewed them. We asked a lot of questions about lifestyle, diet, and physical activity. All sorts of factors that have been thought to be related to cancer,” said Dr. Ambrosone.

To gain a better understanding Dr. Ambrosone expanded her research by teaming up with the leads of The Black Women’s Health Study, and The Carolina Breast Cancer Study, to create the Amber Consortium.

“We decided we were going to put our talents and our numbers together to be able to look at this,” said Dr. Ambrosone.

The Amber Consortium worked with more than 5,000 African-American women from across the country to further investigate the risk factors.

“One thing we found from that consortium, we always thought that having children reduced the risk of breast cancer. Studies were done primarily in White women, and older White women, and they are likely to get estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer that can be easily treated,” said Dr. Ambrosone, “When the studies were large enough to look at breast cancer in Black women, we found because there were enough estrogen receptor-negative tumors that having children actually increased the risk of those types of tumors, and breastfeeding almost totally took that away.”

“This was kind of the finding of my lifetime,” Dr. Ambrosone added, “I got so excited because finally we can do something. Finally we can campaign to have people understand how important it is, not just for your baby, but long-term health, to be able to breastfeed.”

Dr. Ellen Grant has participated in the Black Women’s Health Study and Dr. Ambrosone’s research for years and is now putting that knowledge into practice at Roswell Park through community outreach.

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Dr. Ellen E. Grant is the Executive Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

“I wanted to be there to be a voice,” said Dr. Grant, Executive Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Roswell Park, “What’s lacking, and I tell our community people, particularly women of color, and men of color, that they need to volunteer and be a research participant. If one person can help find a cure for any of these cancer diseases then we are way ahead of where we were 20 years ago.”

Both doctors say that breast cancer awareness and access to screening and treatment is improving, but stress that early detection is still the key.

“If you feel something, talk to your doctor, get a mammogram,” said Dr. Ambrosone.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has several resources available including the ability to take a personal assessment here.