Seminar SERIES




Dorothy Pathak, PhD  

Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics 
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Michigan State University

"From Fun to Funding to Field and now to Findings: The story of the Polish Women's Health Study and of the Humble Cabbage."

In the early 1980s, an extensive literature review of breast cancer (BC) mortality revealed a contrast between Asian and Polish migrants.  Asian-born women did not increase their BC mortality to the level of the host country to which they immigrated, although their daughters experienced this higher risk.  However, Polish women increased their BC mortality to the level of the host country; 3 fold when migrating to the US, 2.2 fold to Wales, and 1.76 fold to Australia.  As a Polish-migrant woman and epidemiologist interested in etiology and prevention of BC, I decided to focus my research on the evaluation of environmental factors which could contribute to this rapid increase in BC risk. Identification of cases had to be done through cancer registries in areas with high Polish migrant concentration.  At that time, I was on faculty at University of New Mexico, an area with very few Polish-migrant women. So, something had to change.

I will present you with the very rewarding FINDINGS of this work and take you on a journey that started in the early 1980’s with a passion to understand this phenomenon.  We will start with the FUN part, my move from New Mexico to Michigan State University, then look at the cycles of grant submissions that resulted in FUNDING and review some of the challenges that we faced in the FIELD.  Then, I will provide you motivation for the cabbage hypothesis and present you with a table from my recent publication which shows how level of consumption of the humble cabbage, over life-course, contributes to a decreased risk of breast cancer.  And this journey took just under 40 years.