Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Major Areas of Research

Environment and Health Policy

Cancer Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention and Control Researchers use interventional designs to identify programs that may change health behavior, the environment, policy, etc. to reduce the cancer burden in communities. Key objectives of their studies are the rapid translation of scientific discoveries into clinical practice, especially in populations with high cancer risk and to those who are underserved in cancer care.

Studies are underway to determine the impact of environment, including neighborhood and socioeconomic factors on specific lifestyles, behaviors, and health outcomes and/or implement community interventions to modify these environmental determinants, as well as monitor health policy and environmental changes and evaluate their impact on cancer prevention and outcomes.

Predictors of physical activity differ in men and women. Dr. Abby King, in collaboration with investigators from other universities, has identified neighborhood factors that predict whether older adults engage in physical activity and has reported that living near hills is a positive predictor, while a lack of streetlights is a negative predictor for older men, but not women. In contrast, older women are less likely to exercise if there are dogs or crime in the neighborhood, and more likely if there is attractive scenery, while these are not significant factors for men.

Living in a low socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhood confers additional mortality risk beyond individual SES for white, black, and Mexican-American men and women, i.e. (age-adjusted: 1.4 to 1.6 for each group). Dr Marilyn Winkleby's analyses of a nationally representative sample suggest that neighborhood SES exerts an independent influence on mortality

Cigarette marketing is more prevalent in stores where adolescents shop frequently. Dr Stephen Fortmann and Lisa Henriksen, SPRC Research Associate, are studying effects of retail tobacco advertising and proximity of stores to schools on adolescent smoking, and are developing strategies to reach youth at the point of cigarette sales.

Dr Esther John conducted the largest study to date, 2500 Hispanic women with and without breast cancer, and found cancer risk was 50% lower in foreign-born than in US-born Hispanics - the difference was six-fold between third- and higher-generation and recent migrants from rural areas. This study suggests the importance of environmental factors on cancer risk, confirming similar findings in Asian and other migrant groups.

Cancer stage at diagnosis, treatment, and survival vary substantially across racial/ethnic groups, but the reasons for these disparities are incompletely understood and only partly characterized by census-based socioeconomic measures. Cancer surveillance data can be a powerful and efficient resource for examining racial/ethnic disparities in cancer outcomes, and their utilization in this regard can be greatly improved by the addition of data that more fully characterize race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The study SOCIAL AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND RACE/ETHNIC VARIATIONS IN CANCER OUTCOMES led by Dr Scarlett Gomez proposes using SEER data to examine these effects.

This document was last modified: Monday, 27-Jun-2011 13:29:23 PDT

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