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Local women sought for cancer study

The incidence of cervical cancer is higher in Appalachia than in other areas of the country;

now, researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center want to find out why.

Beginning this month, researchers from the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and health care professionals in Scioto and Lawrence counties will begin the search for women who may be eligible to enroll in the five-year cervical cancer study.

Researchers hope to enlist at least 100 women at each of 16 sites in the first phase of the project. Only patients who have been getting medical care for at least two years at Kemp Family Medical Center will be considered for participation.

The study, called the CARE Project (Community Awareness Resources and Education), will identify environmental, health and lifestyle factors that may contribute to the development of cervical cancer.

Dr. Electra Paskett, director of the Center for Population Health and Health Disparities at Ohio State and associate director for population sciences in the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center, said cervical cancer appears to be especially problematic among young, white women in Appalachia.

Some studies suggest that they develop the disease at twice the rate of their counterparts in other parts of the country. 

"But there's good news about cervical cancer, and that is it is one of the easiest to detect and treat successfully," Paskett said, adding that regular testing has dramatically reduced the incidence of cervical cancer in this country and in other places where screening routinely occurs.

While Scioto and Lawrence counties will be the first to pilot the study, researchers said other counties will follow, and when all three phases of the project are fully under way, the project could include nearly 10,000 participants in the 29-county Appalachian Ohio region.

"Women will be randomly selected from the practices.

Invitation to participate will come from the woman's doctor and if interested, women can then contact the CARE study team through a toll free number," Paskett said.

The key initiative in the second project will be the identification of participants who smoke and the best strategies they can use to help them quit.

The third project will compare risk factors such as sexual behavior, tobacco use and pap smear screening between women who have cervical abnormalities and those who do not have them.

"We are very excited about this study," Paskett said. "Our long-term goal is to reduce the incidence and suffering from cervical cancer.  But first, we have to find out what's behind the unusually high rate of this disease. That way, we can design appropriate intervention and make sure that we are using our resources wisely."