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CDC funded project targets high Cervical
Cancer rates in immigrant Mexican women
Newswise — Researchers at The University of
Texas School of Public Health El Paso
Regional Campus and the UT School of Public
Health in Houston are expanding the AMIGAS
project, an interventional effort created in
2004 to lower the risks of cervical cancer
among Mexican women in U.S. border
The expansion is supported by a $1 million,
2-year, grant from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
According to the National Cancer Institute,
although cervical cancer incidence and
mortality rates have declined by 50 percent
in the United States over the past three
decades, the disease remains a serious
health threat for Hispanic women.
Theresa Byrd, DrPH, RN, associate professor
at the UT School of Public Health El Paso
Regional Campus and lead investigator, began
the AMIGAS project a little over 3 years
“Rates of cervical cancer are higher among
women of Mexican heritage than among
non-Hispanic white women,” says Byrd, who
has spent more than 20 years working with
border and migrant populations in Arizona,
California, Texas and Chihuahua.
Recently revised and expanded by the CDC,
the project is a collaboration among a
community health advisory group, promotoras
(lay health educators recruited from the
local community) and researchers from the
University of Texas Health Science Center at
Designed to create awareness of cervical
cancer among immigrant Mexican women in the
United States, the AMIGAS program includes a
video, information on a flip chart, a
training guide for the promotoras and a
listing of local screening services.
The participating women will be from El
Paso, Houston and Yakima Valley, Washington.
The selected cities encompass three types of
regions, a Mexican-U.S. border community, an
urban community and a rural community.
If AMIGAS is shown to be effective in
increasing rates of cervical cancer
screening, the researchers will work toward
full adoption, implementation and
maintenance of the interventional program.
Byrd published a study in the Journal of
Preventive Medicine in 2004, which examined
the beliefs and attitudes of Hispanic women
from 18-25 years of age toward cervical
It found these attitudes and beliefs were
associated with cervical cancer screening
rates in the El Paso border region.
The study recognized that the introduction
of the Pap test significantly decreased the
rate of cervical cancer among American women
overall, but Mexican-American women were
less likely to get screened for this type of
cancer because of perceived barriers to
To increase screening rates in this
population, Byrd and her colleagues at the
Center for Health Promotion and Prevention
Research at the UT Health Science Center at
Houston developed AMIGAS in 2004 to promote
cervical cancer screening.
“The development of the project was based on
identifying which factors influenced Pap
test screening among Latinas, as well as the
best methods, strategies and messages to
use,” says Maria E. Fernandez, Ph.D.,
co-principal investigator of AMIGAS.
Fernandez adds that the group is optimistic
that the program will increase screening.
She is an assistant professor and director
of diversity programs at the UT School of
Public Health and the principal investigator
of the Latinos in a Network for Cancer
Control (LINCC), a CDC and NCI funded Cancer
Prevention and Control Research Network.
Cervical cancer is preventable and curable
if detected early. The researchers hope to
later continue the interventional program
with other Hispanic immigrant populations,
in the United States facing the same
increases in cervical cancer.