Newswise — The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center joined the National Cancer Institute and about 48 other sites to increase colorectal cancer screening rates. Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancer types, of the more than 100 known cancer types, for which screening has been proven to reduce the risk of death. Nearly 800 New Mexicans are expected to receive a diagnosis of colon or rectal cancer this year and 340 are expected to die of the disease, according to American Cancer Society estimates.

The NCI’s Screen to Save Initiative is part of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center’s colorectal cancer outreach activities. Screen to Save promotes colorectal cancer screening. It focuses on people 50 to 75 years old from racially and ethnically diverse communities and in rural areas.

Laura Nervi, PhD, MPH, and Erika Robers, MA, serve as the National Outreach Network/Community Health Educators at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. They work closely with Project Director Anita Kinney, PhD, RN. Through Screen to Save, they will hold educational events, reaching about 100 Hispanics in New Mexico. The organizers will contact the participants by phone three months after each event to learn what they remember about colorectal cancer health and how they may behave differently.

According to Kinney, “Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer should start screening at age 50 and those who are at higher risk need to start screening at younger ages. If you have a relative with colorectal cancer, your doctor will help you to know when you should have your first screening and the type of test that is recommended.”

Nervi says, “Hispanic populations in New Mexico and the rest of the United States have lower colorectal cancer screening rates. Furthermore they are diagnosed in later stages and have worse cancer outcomes. The cause of this inequity is due to a combination of socio-economic, socio-cultural and system-level barriers.” Nervi cites lower income, lack of health insurance or underinsurance, reduced access to healthcare, lower health literacy and awareness, language, and reduced healthcare facility preparedness among the barriers that hamper the Hispanic population.

“Experts estimate that at least 95 percent of colorectal cancer cases arise from colon adenomas,” Nervi says. “Adenomas are benign tumors with an increased likelihood to progress to colorectal cancer. Screening can save lives and remove these polyps before they become cancer. Screening also can detect colorectal cancer at [an] early state, [when] the survival rate is over 90 percent.”

About Anita Kinney, PhD, RNAnita Kinney, PhD, RN, is a Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Internal Medicine, and is The Carolyn R. Surface Endowed Chair in Cancer Control and Population Sciences at University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She serves as Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the UNM Cancer Center. She also serves as the lead investigator for Cancer Care Delivery Research at the New Mexico Underserved/Minority site. Dr. Kinney is an international and highly acclaimed expert in cancer prevention and control. Her overarching research goal is to understand variation in cancer risk; determinants of risk and outcomes; and to use this information to develop effective interventions that facilitate access to quality care, promote cancer equity, informed decision-making and positive changes in health behaviors, and improve cancer outcomes in patients and families who have been affected by cancer.

About Laura Nervi, PhD, MPHLaura Nervi, PhD, MPH, is a senior research scientist and responsible for the Office of Community Partnerships and Cancer Health Disparities at the University of New Mexico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is also an active member of the New Mexico Cancer Council’s Colorectal Cancer Workgroup, and member of the Patient Advisory Council of the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN). She is an international health scholar with  over thirty years of experience in teaching, researching, mobilizing resources, and working with multi-disciplinary teams in the design,  implementation, and evaluation of policies and community-based programs that address health inequities and protect underserved populations.

 About the Colorectal Outreach Program at UNM Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe Colorectal Outreach program, with the support of the NCI and its partners, will conduct the following activities between January and September, 2017:

Colorectal prevention and early detection. The program will conduct awareness and educational person-to-person and group sessions in Spanish at the Mexican Consulate. It plans to reach 3,000 Hispanic community members. Partners: Ventanillas de Salud Program and Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque.

Colorectal cancer screening of 600 Hispanic community members at no cost. Partners: American Cancer Society and One Hope Centro de Vida Community Clinic.

Cooperation with the organization of the Colorectal Cancer Roundtable organized by the American Cancer Society.

Elaboration of a culturally appropriate risk assessment and screening toolkit to promote colorectal screening in Hispanics and to be used by community health workers and promotoras. Partners: American Cancer Society, Albuquerque Office; New Mexico Department of Health Comprehensive Cancer Program; New Mexico Cancer Council, CRC Workgroup; One Hope Centro de Vida Clinic, Albuquerque.

 About the UNM Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius. Its 125 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 500 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provided cancer care for nearly 60 percent of the adults and children in New Mexico affected by cancer. They treated 11,249 patients in 84,875 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital. These patients came from every county in the State. More than 12 percent of these patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments and 35 percent of patients participated in other clinical research studies, including tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing. The 130 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded almost $60 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects and published 301 high quality publications. Promoting economic development, they filed more than 30 new patents in FY16, and since 2010, have launched 11 new biotechnology start-up companies. Scientists associated with the UNMCCC Cancer Control & Disparities have conducted more than 60 statewide community-based cancer education, prevention, screening, and behavioral intervention studies involving more than 10,000 New Mexicans. Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 230 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery. Learn more at