University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Study Seeks to End Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Survival Rates

A new research project at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee seeks to determine if a program aimed at increasing exercise among women who have had breast cancer can contribute to a reduction in the racial disparity in breast cancer survival rates. Alice Yan, an associate professor in the university’s School of Public Health, recently completed a four-week exercise program with a group of African American women who had breast cancer. The program is part of a two-year research project funded by the American Cancer Society.

“African-American women have a 23 percent lower five-year relative survival rate than their White counterparts,” Yan said. “Research has shown that exercise plays a vital role in improving the lives of breast cancer survivors.” But getting women who have had breast cancer to exercise can be problematic.

The first part of Yan’s study involved focus groups in which the women identified culturally relevant and contextual factors that presented barriers to exercise, as well as those that would enhance the likelihood that they would participate in exercise on a regular basis.

“One thing we saw was that it was important that the programs be offered where the women live, work and socialize,” Yan said. Yan also feels the group setting is another factor that will help the women motivate each other to continue after the study is over.

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