UC Merced is reaching out to Latina women to prevent breast cancer

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- UC Merced could soon be on the forefront of preventing breast cancer with a new project focusing on women who've become more at risk for the disease. The 5-year study concentrates on Latinas between the ages of 18 to 29 -- to encourage healthy habits.

"That is the point of this project. To get them to change their behaviors, to be healthier, before they get to the age where it's a huge risk to get breast cancer," said Dr. A. Susana Ramirez, Assoc Prof. UC Merced.

Ramirez leads the project funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. She says bi-cultural Latinas, who live in a mix of Mexican and American culture, are more susceptible to risk factors for breast cancer, such as obesity.

Research assistant, Zabrina Campos recruits women for the study, and says the results could reach far beyond the project. "These women, they're eventually going to have kids, so in order to improve the health and the nutrition of future generations as well."

Research assistants like Zabrina are going out into the community, setting up at health fairs and other local events -- going directly to the places where they can find a lot of study participants.

Celicia Avila, 19, of Merced saw the project booth at a community event and joined the study and it's already having a postive effect. " It made me pay attention to more of what nutritional choices I could make at home, in terms of what I could take out of the pantry leave that aside and add something that could be more healthier."

Sending healthy reminder messages is also part of the project and an app or other mobile program is in the works to reach young Latinas, who like most young people, get information on the go.

"If you're about to walk into a fast food restaurant we'll send you a quick message and say, hm, there's a grocery store right behind you and you know you can pick up a hard-boiled egg and a salad that's pre-made and that's going to be a healthier choice," said Dr. Ramirez.

Lifestyle decisions to defeat breast cancer, one powerful message at a time.

Researchers for UC Merced's project plan to include 400 Valley women during the 5-year study.

If you'd like more information including how to volunteer as a participant, visit http://www.communicationculturehealth.org/participate.html
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