UNC breast cancer program recognized as national model

A UNC study has joined the ranks of an elite group of programs recognized for their contributions to reducing cancer.

The North Carolina Breast Cancer Screening Program, based at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been designated a Research-tested Intervention Program by the National Cancer Institute.

The program – which began in 1993 and was active in the community for 10 years – was designed to reduce breast cancer in older African-American women living in eastern North Carolina. It addressed disparities in breast cancer rates between African American and white women due to later-stage diagnosis of the disease among black women. Now, other researchers and public health practitioners use the study’s data and materials to design new interventions.

During the decade-long study, the program trained more than 200 community members from five rural eastern North Carolina counties (Beaufort, Bertie, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington) as lay health advisors or community outreach specialists, promoting routine mammography screening among women 50 years and older; in the community it was known as the Save our Sisters program.

Jo Anne Earp, Sc.D., the study’s principal investigator, said the program helped reduce the racial gap in screening in all five counties, closed it in two of them, and increased mammography screening among low income, less educated women.

“This designation affirms that a dedicated effort between community and university partners can make a crucial difference in screening rates for those most in need,” said Earp, professor and chair of the health behavior and health education department in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and a member of the Lineberger Center.

The study involved faculty members from the Schools of Public Health and Medicine at UNC and East Carolina University, along with more than 50 students, who played key roles as trainers, interventionists and evaluation specialists.

Nationally, the institute has designated 118 studies as recognized Research-tested Intervention Programs. For more information, see http://bit.ly/jNGDca.