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Studying socio-environmental risk factors for MGUS disparities

The research question:

Do neighborhood characteristics and the built environment contribute to the risk of MGUS?

MGUS—monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance—is an asymptomatic clinical precursor to multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. Because MGUS is asymptomatic, the condition does not cause any physical symptoms. It is diagnosed when a protein called M protein reaches a certain level in the patient’s blood. MGUS does not always lead to multiple myeloma, but multiple myeloma is always preceded by MGUS.

Prior research has demonstrated that the incidence of MGUS is two times higher among Black individuals in the United States than among white individuals. However, the reasons for these disparities are still not well known.

Meet the researchers:

Sophia Wang, Ph.D. is a molecular epidemiologist at City of Hope and a California Teachers Study (CTS) Steering Committee member. Dr. Wang has expertise in how cancer develops and how individuals that get cancer fare after their treatment. She completed her education and training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Kimberly Bertrand, Sc.D. is an Associate Professor at Boston University and the Multiple Principal Investigator of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a cohort study focused on health outcomes among Black women in the United States. Dr. Bertrand has expertise in understanding racial disparities in cancer incidence and outcomes. She completed her education and training at Brown University, Boston University, and at the Harvard School of Public Health.

What makes this project unique: Other research studies have shown that certain non-modifiable characteristics, such as age, race, and family history, may be risk factors for developing MGUS. This project is unique in that it focuses on how modifiable socioeconomic and neighborhood factors contribute to a person’s risk of developing MGUS. In other words, this study will evaluate how the “health” of a person’s neighborhood and environment affects their risk of MGUS.

This project is also unique in that it will combine data from two different studies: the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) and the California Teachers Study (CTS). Combining data from the BWHS and the CTS will enable the research team to study socio-environmental risk factors for Black and white women and investigate whether these risk factors help explain the differences in MGUS incidence by race. To accomplish this goal, the research team will evaluate differences in individual factors (income, education, and financial stability) and neighborhood factors (neighborhood walkability, neighborhood urbanicity, and neighborhood deprivation) between participants with MGUS and participants without MGUS.

The questionnaire answers used:

This analysis used self-reported health data from the very first study questionnaire in 1995-1996.

From Questionnaire 1:

- Alcohol consumption

- Age at study enrollment

- Diabetes diagnosis

- Education

- Height & weight

- Parental income

- Physical activity (moderate and vigorous activity)

- Race

- Smoking

Project funding: This project is supported by grant award R01CA249982 from the National Cancer Institute.


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