The research project was directed by Winnifred Cutler ’73, founder of the Athena Institute, and has been published by PLOS ONE a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. Read the article here.
The research is coauthored by James Kolter, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Ursinus faculty members Cathy Chambliss, a professor of psychology; Heather Munro O’Neill, a professor of business and economics; and Hugo Moises Montesinos-Yufa, an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science.
“This massive meta-analysis of over 2.4 million women produces very good news for both pre- and postmenopausal women: 94 percent of those postmenopausal women who never had a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer before will probably remain free of that disease over their next 25 years,” Cutler said. “When the data are combined to include pre and postmenopausal women, this larger group does almost as well: 93.4 percent of pre and postmenopausal women will remain cancer-free after 25 years.”
The findings challenge the widely publicized prediction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society that one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. For the vast majority of pre- and post-menopausal women with no prior diagnosis, Cutler says, “The one in eight prediction does not apply to you.”
The work is the first analysis specifically limited to this large segment of breast cancer-free women and is the first published study to systematically address the likelihood that they would remain cancer free.
“This research has enormous significance for the well-being of women in the United States and in the rest of the world, especially in other developed countries,” Montesinos-Yufa said.
The Athena Institute is a biomedical research institute dedicated to working to improve the quality of healthcare for women. Cutler is known for her discovery of human pheromones, as well as research that has contributed to the international debate over routine prophylactic mammography. She regularly collaborates with Ursinus faculty and staff on research and learning opportunities for students.
“Part of Winnifred’s interest in supporting students is to advance curriculum that enables them to collect data, reframe it into information, and create wisdom from the questions they ask,” O’Neill said. “Her curiosity, love of learning, and drive to publish important findings have resonated with her since her undergraduate days at Ursinus. Ursinus provides a collaborative research and learning community that doesn’t end at graduation as evidenced by her zeal and our enthusiasm as professors to participate.”