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Ed. note: This was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.
The largest study ever to investigate how genetic and biological factors contribute to breast cancer risk among black women launched today. This collaborative research project will identify genetic factors that may underlie breast cancer disparities. The effort is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The Breast Cancer Genetic Study in African-Ancestry Populations initiative does not involve new patient enrollment but builds on years of research cooperation among investigators who are part of the African-American Breast Cancer Consortium, the African-American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk (AMBER) Consortium, and the NCI Cohort Consortium. These investigators, who come from many different institutions, will share biospecimens, data, and resources from 18 previous studies, resulting in a study population of 20,000 black women with breast cancer.
“This effort is about making sure that all Americans – no matter their background – reap the same benefits from the promising advances of precision medicine. The exciting new approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment ring hollow unless we can effectively narrow the gap of cancer disparities, and this new research initiative will help us do that,” said Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., acting director of NCI. “I’m hopeful about where this new research can take us, not only in addressing the unique breast cancer profiles of African-American women, but also in learning more about the origin of cancer disparities.”
Survival rates for women with breast cancer have been steadily improving over the past several decades. However, these improvements have not been shared equally; black women are more likely to die of their disease. Perhaps of most concern is that black women are more likely than white women to be diagnosed with aggressive subtypes of breast cancer. The rate of triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive subtype, is twice as high in black women as compared to white women.
The exact reasons for these persistent disparities are unclear, although studies suggest that they are the result of a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and societal factors, including access to health care. Large studies are needed to comprehensively examine these factors, and NCI is supporting several such efforts.
As part of the study, the genomes of 20,000 black women with breast cancer will be compared with those of 20,000 black women who do not have breast cancer. The genomes will also be compared to those of white women who have breast cancer. The project will investigate inherited genetic variations that are associated with breast cancer risk in black women compared to white women. In addition, researchers will examine gene expression in breast cancer tumor samples to investigate the genetic pathways that are involved in tumor development.
“This $12 million grant—in combination with previous investments—should help advance our understanding of the social and biological causes that lead to disparities in cancer among underserved populations,” said Robert Croyle, Ph.D., director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), which is administering the grant. “A better understanding of the genetic contributions to differences in breast cancer diagnoses and outcomes among African-Americans may lead to better treatments and better approaches to cancer prevention.”
“A number of studies have suggested that genetic factors may influence breast cancer disparities, so we’re hopeful that this project can help to shed further light on this matter.” said Damali Martin, Ph.D., program director for the DCCPS Genomic Epidemiology Branch. Dr. Martin’s office is working directly with the grant recipients as well as the consortia groups that have been researching black women and breast cancer.
The grant has been awarded to Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennesee; Christopher Haiman, Sc.D., of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; and Julie Palmer, Sc.D., of Boston University. Additionally, minority scientists from various institutions, including from one Historically Black College and University medical school, are playing an important role in this study, and they have been involved in previous research that this study builds upon. For example, the Southern Community Cohort Study, a contributing study for this grant, represents a 15-year partnership between Vanderbilt and historically black Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, this grant will provide training opportunities for scientists from minority populations.
Support for ongoing research in this area represents NCI’s continued commitment to fund a comprehensive portfolio of research aimed at reducing cancer risk, incidence, and mortality, as well as improving quality of life for cancer survivors across all demographic groups.
The National Cancer Institute leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
Summary: The effects of incarceration are felt far beyond prison walls: children, families, and communities also experience the consequences of incarceration.
The effects of incarceration are felt far beyond prison walls: Children, families and communities also experience the consequences of incarceration. New research estimates that more than 5 million children, or 7 percent of all children in the United States, have had a parent in prison at some point during their childhood. Though every family’s story is different, many struggle with financial strain, stigma and discrimination, and the challenges of getting back to normal after a family member returns home from incarceration.
On June 29, HHS, DOJ, and the Federal Interagency Reentry Council Subgroup on Children of Incarcerated Parents hosted a listening session with 20 young people (ages 16-24), from across the country who have or have had an incarcerated parent. The listening session was an opportunity for federal staff from across government to learn more about the unique challenges of having a parent behind bars. The federal audience was able to hear stories like:
AnthonyAnthony, now 20 years old, was just 10 when his mother was first incarcerated for a nonviolent drug-related offense. With his mother absent, Anthony and his six siblings lost their housing assistance and bounced in and out of shelters. Anthony struggled with his feelings of resentment and found himself in trouble with the law as a teenager. Fortunately, with free legal assistance, he was able to get his record expunged, turn his life around, and will be the first in his family to attend college, starting this fall.
AubreyAubrey was in 7th grade when her mother was first incarcerated. She recalled the humiliation she felt when being called out of class after her mother was arrested and the shame of having teachers and classmates look at her differently. The following year, Aubrey’s mother was arrested again in the middle of the night. Aubrey remembers hearing her mother plead with police to let her say goodbye to her kids, and the police carrying her off without letting her say a word to them, leaving Aubrey and her young brother home alone with her mother’s boyfriend at the time. Aubrey is grateful for Northwest Family Services for providing her with two incredible mentors, Marilyn and Marianne, who helped support her, and to organizations like Angels in the Outfield, who provided rental assistance and school supplies when she needed them.
JessicaJessica was only 2 when her father was sentenced to 21 years in prison. Though expensive, Jessica and her family frequently take the five-hour journey to visit him. After years of only being able to talk through glass, Jessica’s father was granted contact visits this past February. She recalled how incredible it was to finally get to hug her dad after 14 years of not being able to touch. For Jessica, the worst part about the visits was the strict and confusing dress code imposed by correctional staff. Even after traveling such a long distance to see her father, Jessica was turned away at the door for wearing blue because it was associated as a gang color. She said she felt treated like a prisoner even though she had done nothing wrong.
These stories reflect the experiences of many youth who have an incarcerated parent. When parents are incarcerated, multiple agencies often provide support for these children through direct services such as foster care placement or mentoring. Many programs provide indirect assistance to caregivers, but efforts are rarely coordinated among the agencies that may have a stake in this issue, including human services, education, child welfare, police, parole and probation authorities, and corrections. At the listening session, the young people expressed the need for more and better programs and called for bold action by policy makers.
This week, the White House and the Department of Justice will convene the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, which was launched in 2011 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder and formally established by the President in April, to bring together the heads of 15 cabinet-level departments and agencies. The Council will explore how the federal government can continue to identify and eliminate unwarranted barriers to successful reentry and support families affected by the criminal justice system. For more information, please visit youth.gov/coip.
Charles Homer is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Human Services Policy at the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
Ed. note: This blog post originally published by Mili K. Patel, JD, MPH, and Shulamit M. Schweitzer, MHS on the ASPR.gov blog. Click to view this post in English.
Si está embarazada o piensa empezar una familia, probablemente ya sabe que el estrés durante el embarazo es normal. Pero mucho estrés no es saludable. El surgimiento del virus del Zika puede ser otra razón de inquietud para las mujeres embarazadas o que tratan de quedar embarazadas.
El Zika es una enfermedad grave que puede afectar a su bebé. El virus del Zika puede pasar de una mujer embarazada al feto. Durante el embarazo, la infección puede causar un defecto grave del cerebro llamado microcefalia al igual que otros daños cerebrales severos. Actualmente, los mosquitos no han propagado el Zika en los Estados Unidos continentales. Pero se han reportado casos de transmisión por medio de mosquitos en Puerto Rico, las Islas Vírgenes de Estados Unidos y la Samoa Americana.
Infórmese acerca de esta enfermedad y cómo prevenir la infección. El manejo del estrés es importante para lograr embarazos y nacimientos más saludables, y mejores resultados de salud a largo plazo para las familias.
Aquí hay seis cosas que puede hacer para proteger su salud y la salud de su bebé:
Esta hoja de datos sobre cómo lidiar con el estrés durante el brote de enfermedades contagiosas podría ayudarla a reconocer las señales de estrés y saber cuándo pedir ayuda.
¡Proteja su embarazo y aprenda cómo lidiar con el estrés! Esto es clave para tener un embarazo y parto sano, y para que su familia tenga un mejor futuro.
Nota: El contenido original de este mensaje fue desarrollado por la Oficina de la Subsecretaría de Preparación y Respuesta; este texto fue traducido por la Oficina de Salud de las Minorías. Puede leer la entrada al blog en inglés aquí.
Each year, more than 700,000 individuals, the vast majority of them men, return to communities throughout the U.S. after serving time in federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million cycle through local jails. Research shows that, within three years of their release, as many as two-thirds of those who have completed their sentences are likely to be re-arrested, and within five years the proportion increases to three-fourths.
After being released, previously incarcerated individuals often face many barriers when re-entering society. With the lack of a competitive resume or employment credentials, income, housing, and health care, they find themselves facing many of the same risk factors that may have been contributing factors to conditions leading to their original offenses.
As we wrap up observances of Men’s Health Month this June, it is vital to remember the importance of providing previously incarcerated individuals with opportunities to successfully re-enter their communities. Doing so will require a commitment to improving employment prospects, but also a focus on behavioral health.
Studies show that the majority of people who are incarcerated meet the criteria for having a mental and/or substance use disorder:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative addresses the behavioral health needs of people at risk or involved with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. A variety of strategies, such as community-based grant programs, policy academies, and training and technical assistance are used to reduce the consequences of repeated arrests, and improve the behavioral health of those involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. One of the most recent grant programs, the Offender Reentry Program (ORP), has been implemented to expand and enhance substance use disorder treatment for individuals using re-entry services. This grant has been designed to help adults with substance use disorders who have been released from jail or prison, successfully return to their families and communities.
The HHS Office of Minority Health is also committed to advancing health equity among previously incarcerated individuals through a new Re-Entry Resource Page and grant funding. A new grant program to assist formerly incarcerated individuals, the Re-Entry Community Linkages (RE-LINK) program which was announced earlier this year, is designed to improve health outcomes for minority re-entrants in transition from jail to their communities. This grant will help community-based organizations provide linkages to health care, including behavioral health services, health care coverage, and other social services, such as housing, adult education, and employment assistance programs.
For additional information and resources, visit SAMHSA’s Reentry Resources for Individuals, Providers, Communities and States page here.
For more information on the HHS Office of Minority Health, visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on SAMHSA, visit SAMHSA.gov.
Quasia Cowan and Mahogany Kankam are interns at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Juliet Bui, MSW, MPA, is a Public Health Advisor at the HHS Office of Minority Health.
At the heart of the Caribbean-American community is a sentiment to never forget your roots. A new life filled with opportunity greets many who journey to the mainland United States, but they never forget those whom they love and cherish back in their homeland. This is a sentiment that I, as the daughter of Haitian immigrants, reflect on during this Caribbean American Heritage Month.
In 2010, only eight days into a new position as Chief Medical Officer to the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I was stunned by the news that a 7.0 earthquake had struck Haiti. My first response was to call my parents to see if they had made contact with our family in Haiti. My second response was to join the HHS team that was working on the disaster response. Upon arriving in Haiti to continue to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts, I was moved by the responsibility that I felt, not only as a federal official, but as a daughter of that land who wanted to undo the devastation that had been experienced by the people I loved so much.
Today, it is not a natural disaster but rather the Zika virus that is a public health crisis for the health and well-being of our families and loved ones here in the U.S. mainland, the U.S. territories, and in our beloved Caribbean nations. At HHS, we have faced other global health challenges, including the Ebola and Dengue viruses, and are working hard to provide the best resources to address this latest outbreak head on. Our top focus is to reduce the risk to pregnant women and women of childbearing age, as we have learned that Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
Another critical area is educating people, including those who plan to travel to countries and territories impacted by the Zika virus, on the facts about the disease and how they can protect themselves and their families. For example, we are working to make sure that travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika know that they should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks. These steps will prevent them from passing Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.
We’re taking steps to combat Zika now. In April, HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $5 million in funding to 20 health centers in Puerto Rico to further combat the Zika virus disease. Earlier this month, additional funding was awarded to health centers in American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands to fight Zika. Health centers are using this funding to expand voluntary family planning services, including contraceptive services, outreach and education, and to hire more staff.1 And to help increase public awareness across the nation, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is working with key partners and stakeholders to ensure that information on this global health issue reaches minority communities across the nation.
A newly created HHS OMH Zika Resource webpage consolidates a cross section of information on the Zika virus from the federal government, state resources and nonprofit organizations, including multilingual materials. OMH is also working in conjunction with other federal and local agencies to provide networks of promotores de salud, also known as community health workers, with culturally and linguistically appropriate materials to educate Latino and other minority communities about the Zika virus.
During this Caribbean American Heritage Month, let us empower our Caribbean-American brothers and sisters with information on how to protect ourselves from the Zika virus – both here and in the Caribbean. Similar to natural disasters, public health threats do not discriminate. In order to protect ourselves, sharing of information is instrumental to increase access to resources and services. It is a small step we can take to help educate the Caribbean-American community about how to maintain optimal health in the face of this health threat. We stand committed to working towards improving and strengthening the health of our nation and global community, and continue to stand as pillars of action and change in the United States and abroad.
For more information on the HHS Office of Minority Health visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.
Find resources on Zika in English and Spanish
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.