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Voice from the Lab: Neha Tabassum

What are you currently working on?

I am a PhD student working with my team on how pregnancy can affect your chances of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, but the causes of cancer onset are not fully understood yet.

It is known that women who are pregnant for the first time before they are 24 years of age have less probability to develop breast cancer in their 50s, an age where most breast cancer is diagnosed, than women who are pregnant for the first time at an older age (above 35 years old) or have never got pregnant.

We are examining changes in the DNA of cells within non-cancerous samples before and after pregnancy, and of breast cancer samples. We aim to see how pregnancy at different ages can change the probability of the cells in the breast accumulating mutations in genes, which lead to cancer.

What motivates you on a day-to-day basis?

The age at which women are having their first child is continuing to rise in high-income countries, potentially leading to higher rates of breast cancer in future. Finding a way to monitor the chance of a woman of developing cancer after her pregnancy will be extremely important, as women at higher risk could be monitored closely resulting in early diagnosis and effective treatment. The chance to be part of the solution to this problem is just amazing. I love my research project.

Read more about the research Neha is working on here.

Read more Voices from the Lab here: Dr. Silvia Ottaviani, Rosemary Lane, Dr. Elena Lopez-Jimenez, Dr. Philip Lawton and Dr. Niklas Feldhahn.

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