UH Cancer Center’s mission in preventing and screening for cancer

Identifying risk factors and testing treatments

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The UH Cancer Center has a wide array of studies with the public to really understand the causes behind different cancers in a multi-ethnic community like Hawaii. The center is involved in finding new risk factors and also testing treatments to prevent it. HI Now host Jobeth Devera is speaking with experts at the center to learn more about the research projects going on.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and is also one of the most preventable. Out of five million cases each year, there are about 10,000 in Hawaii, and the state’s proximity to the equator puts people here at risk year-round. “We have a higher risk for year-round exposures to ultraviolet radiation,” Dr. Kevin Castle explains. “This type of radiation can cause sunburns and actually lead to skin cancers.”

Experts at the UH Cancer Center say melanoma incidence is rising and that melanoma is the second most common cancer type diagnosed among ages 15 to 35. Researchers work with high school students athletes who have an emergent risk for skin cancer. “We’re looking at this population because of their role as emergent consumers. They have a high propensity to be outdoors,” Dr. Castle says. He explains that through this project, researchers are looking for systematic ways of protecting these athletes by working with shade, providing UV protected clothing, and limiting the time they’re exposed in the sun.

When it comes to breast cancer, Dr. John Shepherd focuses on finding new risk factors. The Hawaii and Pacific Island mammography registry is a new effort from the UH Cancer Center to describe breast cancer risk using mammograms collected as part of screening mammography. “This is because breast density is one of the strongest risk factors for breast caner, and we can only get that from mammograms,” Dr. Shepherd explains. “We need to collect as many women as possible to get a good sampling of breast density by age and by ethnicity to better understand risk on an individual basis.”

The UH Cancer Center is also investigating how body shape is related to the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease through the “Shape Up!” study. “We do so by figuring out how your fat is distributed on your body and how much muscle you have distributed on your body,” Dr. Shepherd says. Researchers then test your body shape against outcomes related to cancer.

For more information: uhcancercenter.org, facebook.com/UHCancerCenter, Twitter: @UHCancerCenter