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UCI Health reaches out to Hispanic women for nationwide study on breast cancer screening

October 22, 2019

The Wisdom Study, a UC effort to clarify breast cancer screening guidelines, is now reaching out to Hispanic women and those residing outside of California. All study materials, including the study website, are now available in Spanish.

The study was launched in 2015 to determine whether women should follow a risk-based screening schedule or the standard age-based screening schedule. Many women are confused by conflicting screening guidelines among several national health organizations, high rates of false-positive test results, and concerns about over-screening.

In younger women who have had one screening, the test results show a false-positive in 7-12% of the women. For women who have had ten yearly screenings, the chance is 50-60% of having a false positive. The result is lack of certainty over when and how often exactly women should have a mammogram.

Research shows only 61 percent of Hispanic women report ever having a mammogram, compared with 65 percent of non-Hispanic white women. African American women have the highest rate of mammograms screenings at 69 percent, while Asian women have the lowest rate at 59 percent. Health care officials say barriers to screenings such as lack of access to care or worry about the cost may hinder women from getting a mammogram.

While Latinas have a lower incidence of breast cancer, a 2004 report found that the risk of death is significantly greater for Hispanic women over non-Hispanic white women.  Hispanic women tend to be diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer, and research suggests one reason for this is that they often have more barriers to overcome such as cost, access to care and potential language differences.

 “Many women don’t get mammograms because no one in their family has had breast cancer, so they don’t think they are at risk, but we now know that about 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history,” says Dr. Hannah Lui Park, director of the Wisdom Study at UCI. “There are many factors that contribute to a woman’s personal risk, and we’re hoping the Wisdom Study will not only tell us how risk-based screening compares to annual screening but also encourage women who may not currently be getting screened to start doing so, according to national recommendations.”

UCI Health has enrolled more than 1,500 women in southern California. The study is striving to reach 100,000 women nationwide by July 31, 2020. Having the study available in Spanish will open the study to include Spanish speakers who were previously unable to enroll due to language limitations.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force guidelines released in 2009 advise most women to get mammograms every two years instead of annually, but many women and their physicians do not follow this recommendation. Researchers from UCI joined the Wisdom Study in an effort to end the confusion over breast cancer screenings – what is the correct age to start screenings and what schedule is appropriate to follow.

“I am passionate about women’s health and want to help in any way I can. This was an easy way to do so,” said Julie Strope, participant and department administrator for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UCI. “I learned that annual mammograms may not be necessary, and some women can safely reduce the number of mammograms received in their lifetime. Hopefully in the future this study will pinpoint how often women should get mammograms.”

UC San Francisco launched the study, which now includes UCI Health, UC San Diego, UCLA, and UC Davis. The UC consortium broadened its reach nationwide with Sanford Health, University of Alabama, University of Chicago, Louisiana State University, and some healthcare facilities in New Jersey joining the study.

Women who participate fill out an online form which asks questions about personal and family history of breast cancer. Participants are divided into two groups, where they can choose or be assigned:

  • Yearly mammograms: Participant will receive a standard annual mammogram
  • Personalized: A custom schedule based on risk and genetic results

Participants in the personalized group will receive a saliva sample kit in the mail. This test looks for mutations in nine known cancer susceptibility genes: ATM, BRCA1, BRCA2, CDH1, CHEK2, PALB2, PTEN, STK11, and TP53.

“I was tested and have no mutations, but am told to keep getting annual mammograms,” said another study participant. “The test results are not a guarantee against breast cancer but it provides a little peace of mind, and couldn’t we all use a little peace of mind these days?”

Learn more: wisdomstudy.org


UCI Health comprises the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, California. The 417-bed acute care hospital provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.