Researchers Discuss Minorities and Cancer During National Conference
Researchers this week presented studies and reports on minorities and cancer. The following summarizes recent news coverage on the American Association for Cancer Research conference, "The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved."
Invasive Breast Cancer
Researchers at the University of Chicago looked at 1,246 women with stage I or stage II invasive breast cancer who were being treated with lumpectomy and radiation. Almost 85% of white women were still living and were free of breast cancer eight years after treatment, compared with 78.1% of black women. According to the study, 31.6% of black women experienced a breast cancer relapse eight years after treatment, compared with 14.9% of all other women. The authors suggested that current mammography screening guidelines be revised to benefit black women.
Tumor Gene Profiles
National Cancer Institute researchers looked at differences in gene profiles of tumors and how tumor cells interact with the immune system. They found that many of the same genes in tumors are active in inflammatory diseases, such as chronic colitis. According to HealthDay/Forbes, research previously has linked inflammatory conditions and cancer.
Auxiliary Lymph Node Dissection
Researchers at the American Cancer Society looked at data on about 200,000 women to see who received auxiliary lymph node dissection, a diagnostic test that can determine whether breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Eleven percent of women in the study group did not undergo the procedure. According to the study:
- Black women were 10% less likely than white women to have their lymph nodes accurately assessed;
- Women in areas with low education levels were 13% less likely than those in higher-education areas to undergo the test; and
- Women ages 73 or older were three times less likely than women ages 51 or younger to undergo the procedure. While the test is considered optional for elderly women, the finding still surprised researchers, according to HealthDay/Forbes (HealthDay/Forbes , 11/29).
Hispanic Immigrant Cancer Education
Nashville, Tenn.-area researchers and community groups surveyed cancer care and prevention needs of 500 Hispanics whose average age was 35. Ninety-eight percent of respondents were not born in the U.S., more than half had emigrated from Mexico, 80% were uninsured, two-thirds had not completed high school and 55% spoke little or no English.
Respondents chose cancer as their top concern, out of 25 health topics. About 75% said they wanted to learn more about cancer prevention and more than half said they wanted more information on cancer screening. In addition, many respondents said they would participate in a clinical trial if they had cancer. Further, more than 90% of respondents with daughters under age 18 said they would "probably" or "definitely" approve of their daughters receiving the human papillomavirus vaccine at no cost. HPV is linked to cervical cancer.
Pamela Hull, the lead investigator and associate director of Tennessee State University's Center for Health Research, said, "Our local Hispanic community has grown nearly sevenfold over the last decade, yet we do not know much, if anything, about their cancer-related needs. Our survey has found that members of the Nashville Hispanic community are overwhelmingly interested in cancer prevention and health care efforts -- including cancer clinical trials and cervical cancer vaccination -- yet the community generally lacks access to care and information" (HealthDay/Forbes , 11/29).
American Indians and Cancer Awareness
Researchers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center examined the cancer views of about 200,000 members of the Navajo Nation who live in the Navajo Reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. According to the report, Navajos are aware of and interested in colorectal screening, but they have lower than average colorectal screening rates. Only 16% of those surveyed at two annual tribal festivals on the reservation had reported ever receiving a colorectal cancer screening. In addition, 55% of those surveyed at two Indian Health Service hospitals had heard of colorectal screening but only 30% underwent the screening. Further, only half of elderly tribal members underwent the screening.
Priscilla Sanderson, who surveyed Navajos at the festivals, said, "Part of the problem involves public health resources, but there is a definite cultural component that has inadvertently stood in the way of cancer awareness."
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, many Navajos do not speak English as their primary language and about 47% speak only Navajo, which does not have a specific word for cancer. Sanderson said, "There is really no word for cancer that all people on the reservation would look at as cancer."
She added that the study, while not providing a full picture of Navajo's colorectal cancer awareness, could help boost awareness and provide a base for further research (Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 11/30).
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, many African-American women living in Washington, D.C., public housing do not have the healthy eating habits that could reduce their risk for cancer, Reuters reports (Bigg, Reuters, 11/28).
The study examined 156 women living in Washington, D.C., public housing. Researchers calculated participants' daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, alcohol, calories, percentage of fat intake and adherence to USDA's Healthy Eating Index, which measures the overall quality of diet. Researchers found that 61% of participants met none or one of five goals for maintaining a healthy diet. Fewer than 1% of the participants met all the standards in each category, although 64% reported no alcohol consumption on the days they were interviewed (Reuters, 11/28). The standards were suggested as ways to reduce cancer risk (AACR release, 11/28).
The study also found that younger women were more likely to eat unhealthy, convenience food than older women. Younger women also appeared to lack the skills needed to develop a healthy diet, according to the study. The study also found a link between depression, smoking and poor diet.
Ann Klassen, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "African-American women ... face a worse cancer incidence and mortality rate than most other ethnic groups, and poor African-American women are at an even greater disadvantage" (Reuters, 11/28). She added, "Improving diet is one effective way to help these women lower their risk for developing cancer" (AARC release, 11/28).
Klassen said, "We believe that there are structural factors in society that make it more difficult for low-income people to modify their lifestyle in a way that they might know are healthy" (Reuters, 11/28).