University of South Carolina

Faculty experts available to discuss breast cancer

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Office of Media Relations has prepared a list of University of South Carolina faculty who are conducting breast cancer research. For more information or to schedule interviews, call or e-mail Megan Sexton in the Office of Media Relations, (803) 777-5400. (

Links between breast cancer and Vitamin D in African-American women
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with elevated breast cancer risk. A new study has found African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer had lower vitamin D levels than white women with breast cancer. Low vitamin D was related to a greater likelihood for aggressive breast cancer. Black women are at a higher risk because darker skin color reduces the efficiency of the absorption of UV rays, which is imperative in producing vitamin D. Dr. Susan Steck, associate professor of epidemiology at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health, led the study.

Support groups improve quality of life for African-American women with breast cancer
Dr. Sue Heiney
, professor in USC’s College of Nursing and School of Medicine can discuss the importance of support groups for African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer. Heiney’s recent study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, found that telephone support groups improved the quality of life and family relationships for African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer and diet
Research continues to show the relationship between breast cancer and diet. Dr. James Hebert, director of the S.C. Cancer Prevention and Control Program and professor in the Arnold School of Public Health, can discuss the specific effect of diet and related factors in causing cancer.

Role of stem cells in breast cancer research
Dr. Hexin Chen, an assistant professor of biological sciences, is working on three projects aimed at understanding breast-cancer stem cells and targeting them for breast-cancer treatment. The rare cancer cell population, called “Cancer Stem Cell,” is thought to be the ultimate arbiter of tumor maintenance and propagation and the root cause of relapse and treatment resistance of many cancers. Studies are also identifying markers of cancer stem cells, which may help further characterize the types of breast cancer and select right treatment regimens.

Eating seaweed may help explain lower breast cancer rates in Japan
The idea of studying the health effects of eating seaweed came from studies of breast-cancer rates in different countries. In particular, women in the United States have four times higher rates of breast cancer as women in Japan. Lifestyle issues, such as smaller body size, more exercise and eating smaller amounts of fatty food and sugary drinks may all be important, but eating different foods, like seaweed, may be key to understanding the differences in breast cancer risk. Seaweeds are remarkably effective at preventing breast cancer in the laboratory studies using cancer cells in test tubes and in studies of animals given seaweed along with a carcinogen. When Dr. Jane Teas of USC’s Cancer Research Center gave capsules of seaweed to healthy American women, she saw significant protective changes in hormones related to breast cancer. Seaweeds are enthusiastically eaten by millions of people in Japan every day. Sushi and seaweed-miso soup are the two easiest ways to eat seaweed in South Carolina.

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 10/13/10 @ 12:15 PM | Updated: 01/07/11 @ 5:01 PM | Permalink