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Research Can Help Close Cancer 'Race Gap'

Understanding the needs of minority communities is key, U.S. teams say

THURSDAY, Nov. 29, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Collaborations between researchers and community groups can help ease cancer disparities among minority populations, researchers report.

They based their conclusions on the results of U.S. initiatives launched in Nashville, Tenn. and among the Navajo Nation.

Such partnerships between researchers and community groups can improve the quality of data collection, provide new insight into social factors/help, and result in sustained health improvements in disadvantaged populations, the scientists said.

The initiatives were to be outlined Thursday in Atlanta at an American Association for Cancer Research conference.

Like many communities across the United States, Nashville has experienced a large growth in its Hispanic population, a group whose health care needs are under-studied and not well documented in the academic literature. In response, a group of Nashville-area researchers partnered with community groups to survey the cancer care and prevention needs of more than 500 Hispanics, whose average age was 35. The information will be used in the development of future community programs and may help improve cancer prevention/care programs for local Hispanics.

Of the respondents, 98 percent were not born in the United States; more than half had emigrated from Mexico. The survey found that 80 percent of respondents didn't have health insurance, two-thirds hadn't completed high school, and 55 percent spoke little or no English.

Out of a list of 25 health topics, cancer was rated the top health concern. Almost 75 percent of respondents said they wanted to learn more about cancer prevention and just over half said they wanted more information on cancer screening. A large majority of respondents said they'd take part in a clinical trial to receive treatment if they had cancer. More than 90 percent of respondents with daughters under age 18 said they'd probably or definitely approve of their daughters receiving the new human papillomovirus virus (HPV) vaccine if it were free. HPV infection is linked with cervical cancer.

"Our local Hispanic community has grown nearly seven-fold over the last decade, yet we do not know much, if anything, about their cancer-related needs," lead investigator Pamela Hull, associate director of the Center for Health Research at Tennessee State University, said in a prepared statement. "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."

"Over the last 15 years of so, many smaller cities and rural communities across the interior of the United States have seen a similar growth of Hispanic immigrants moving from the states with traditionally larger Hispanic populations," Hull said. "Our survey, and the participatory methods we use, could help inform these new growth communities about their blossoming Hispanic populations."

In general, Hispanics have lower cancer rates than whites, but have higher rates for certain types of cancers, such as cervical, stomach, liver and leukemia, according to the American Cancer Society. Hispanics also have lower survival rates for most cancers. The Nashville survey found that cancer rates among Hispanics may vary according to their country of origin, Hull said.

The other researcher/community group partnerships outlined at the conference included one to help black Americans stop smoking and another to educate members of the Navajo Nation about colorectal cancer.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Hispanic health issues.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Nov. 29, 2007
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