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Assessment of the Relationship Between Environmental Quality and Perceived and Actual Cancer Risk in Environmental Justice Communities in Metropolitan Charleston, South CarolinaEPA Grant Number: FP917279
Title: Assessment of the Relationship Between Environmental Quality and Perceived and Actual Cancer Risk in Environmental Justice Communities in Metropolitan Charleston, South Carolina
Investigators: Rice, LaShanta J
Institution: Medical University of South Carolina
EPA Project Officer: Cobbs-Green, Gladys M.
Project Period: August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Human Health: Risk Assessment and Risk Management , Academic Fellowships
African Americans have higher mortality rates and lower rates of survival for most cancers compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Environmental justice researchers have demonstrated that African Americans live in communities that experience disproportionately higher health risks from the burden of and exposure to environmental hazards, including noxious land uses and high levels of EPA criteria air pollutants. Exposure to criteria air pollutants can lead to cancer or exacerbate other health conditions. To reduce burgeoning cancer risks among African Americans, this research will elucidate the role environmental exposures play in social perceptions and actual cancer risk across disproportionately exposed populations.
Using an existing community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnership between the Low Country Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) and University of South Carolina (USC), quantitative and qualitative analyses, this project will explore the correlation between environmental quality and actual cancer risk and community perceptions of cancer risks. To accomplish this goal, an environmental community health survey will be distributed in census tracts in Metropolitan Charleston and used to inform focus groups in LAMC neighborhoods. Socio-demographic information will be collected from the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau at the census tract level. Data from the South Carolina Central Cancer Registry (SCCCR) will be used to determine cancer risk scores. Geographic information systems will be used to depict the correlation between the spatial distribution of environmental hazards and cancer risk at the census tract level. Statistical analyses will determine if there is a significant difference in risk scores between percent black and percent white and assess levels of perceived risk by race/ ethnicity, gender and group.
Gauging underlying causes of cancer health disparities in underserved communities is not an easy task; however, assessing the relationship between social underpinnings and environmental conditions could prove to be valuable for populations disproportionately burdened by cancer and other diseases. Assessing the non-biological factors that constitute a greater influence on cancer risk among African Americans may improve uptake of prevention services and improve gaps in health between and within populations. Populations in predominately African American or lowincome census tracts will have lower perceived risk of cancer than their white or more affluent counterparts. There will be a positive correlation between the spatial distribution of environmental hazards and cancer risk scores at the census tract level. There will be an inverse correlation between environmental quality and cancer risk and cancer morbidity in predominately African American census tracts and low socioeconomic status (SES) tracts.
Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection
There is limited knowledge about the level of impact that perceived cancer risk has on intent to be screened or that environmental quality has on cancer risk in low-income communities and communities of color. Information gained from this research may significantly increase understanding of the spatial and temporal variation of human exposure to actual environmental hazards and provide an understanding of the correlation between perceived risk and actual risk of cancer based on exposure burden. The proposed project will fill this gap and is one of a few studies to examine community exposure, perceived environmental quality, and perceived cancer risk. Ultimately, this research will elucidate the relationship between the spatial distribution of facilities that emit pollutants and risk of disease among African Americans residing in environmental justice communities.