State Health Department Awarded $300,000 Grant

Grant will fund oral cancer initiatives over three–year period.

Albany, November 1, 2001 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. today announced that the New York State Health Department is being awarded $300,000 by The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to combat oral cancer in New York State. The funding will be allocated over the next three years.

"Cancer is an insidious disease and Governor Pataki and I are committed to initiatives that will reduce the incidence and mortality of its various forms in New York State," Dr. Novello said. "This grant will help us build on the tremendous initiatives and programs the State has put into place to detect and beat cancer."

The Department will utilize the funding to plan and develop an organizational infrastructure, conduct a needs assessment and guide the development of interventions for the prevention and early detection of oral cancer in New York State.

The project will feature many different private and public organizations – including the State Health Department, New York University College of Dentistry, American Cancer Society, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Support for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer, the New York State Task Force on Immigrant Health and the New York State Dental Association, among others – pooling their resources.

During the first phase of the project, the activities will focus on analyzing data on incidence, mortality, knowledge, behavior and practices. The New York State Cancer Registry will be used to examine the county specific rates and identify areas for targeting interventions; Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System data will be used to assess the knowledge, opinion and behavior of the public.

Moreover, approximately 1,000 health care professionals (physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners/physician assistants, dental hygienists and health educators) will be surveyed and interviews will be held to obtain insights into the opportunities and barriers for designing interventions.

In New York, approximately 1,900 oral and pharyngeal cancer cases are reported annually. Although risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol and exposure to the sun are known, the incidence rates and the rate of diagnosis in the early stages have not changed substantially in the last 20 years. These cancers are easily detectable, however, the percentage of cases diagnosed in the early stages ranges from a low of 27 percent among African American males to a high of 56 percent among Caucasian females. The overall five–year survival rate is lower among African American than for Caucasians, 34 percent compared to 56 percent.