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The Cancer Prevention and Control Program

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Stress Reduction

The public health community is just beginning to realize the extreme impact that stress has on health, including increasing the risk for many cancers. Here at the Cancer Prevention and Control Program, we conduct important studies to determine exactly how stress affects the risk for cancer, as well as how stress interacts with other factors like sleep disruption and physical activity to affect general health.

Ongoing and Completed Studies

Co-Principal Investigator: Jim Burch

Funding Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Research and Development, Clinical Science Research and Development Program

Study Period: 4/1/15–3/31/19

This randomized, sham-controlled, pilot intervention trial will examine whether heart rate variability biofeedback improves parasympathetic tone and ameliorates pain, stress and insomnia among Veteran patients with chronic, neuromusculoskeletal pain.

Co-Principal Investigators: Heather Brandt and James Hébert

Funding Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health

Study Period: 5/1/14–3/31/18

This dissemination and implementation research is based on our previous efficacious intervention trial that which focused on diet, physical activity and stress reduction in collaboration with the African-American (AA) faith community to reduce inflammation (the HEALS intervention). Extraordinary success in engaging the AA faith and greater AA community through community-based participatory research now allows us to disseminate and implement this intervention. We will ensure that this research contributes to achieving our overall goal of reducing health disparities among AAs through the following specific aims: (1) disseminate and implement the successful HEALS intervention in the AA faith community; (2) evaluate and monitor the dissemination process for adoption, recruitment, retention and fidelity to the HEALS intervention; (3) conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis of intervention dissemination and implementation to reduce health disparities in parameters associated with inflammation; and (4) enhance the capacity of the target community to sustain the delivery of the evidence-based intervention and engage in future research to address health disparities through cultivation of a network of active church and community educators and leadership development activities.

Co-Principal Investigator: Jim Burch

Funding Source: Greenville Health System Cancer Institute

Study Period: 3/1/15–3/31/16

This study will test the hypothesis that heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-B) restores autonomic balance and has the effect of reducing pain and related symptoms among cancer survivors. The specific aims are to: (1) conduct a randomized, controlled, pilot intervention trial to determine whether HRV-B increases HRV coherence among cancer survivors (minimum N of 20 [10 per group], up to 100 total [50 per group]); (2) determine whether HRV-B reduces pain, stress, fatigue, depression or insomnia among cancer survivors; and (3) determine whether an increase in HRV coherence reduces pain, stress, fatigue, depression, or insomnia in the study population.

Principal Investigator: Cheryl A Armstead

Funding Source: Institute for African-American Research (IAAR)

Study Period: 2013–2014

The experience of racism is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon exhibiting both historical and contemporaneous influences on health. At present, the perceived racism scale (PRS) is one of few established instruments that capture the complexity of the experience of racism. The PRS will be psychometrically evaluated with the goal of enhancing the revised instrument’s (PRS-R) ability to identify important pathways by which racism “gets under the skin” to produce health disparities. The new scale will not only provide an updated measure of the frequency of exposure to racism but will also take a step forward in improving its predecessor’s assessment of racism in health care and coping responses to racism among middle aged African Americans (AAs). Enhanced sample size and measurement of racism-related pathways to ethnic disparities will improve the PRS-R’s sensitivity and scope. Middle-aged AAs are more likely than any other group to have coexisting chronic disease risk factors and comorbid health conditions (e.g., cancer, high blood pressure). This age cohort is particularly important to our understanding of psychosocial determinants involved in the onset of cancer, hypertension and other chronic diseases. Making necessary psychometric adjustments and norming our questionnaire on middle-age AAs is a pivotal step toward closing the gap in ethnic health disparities.

Investigator: Cheryl A Armstead

Funding Source: University of South Carolina - Intramural: Associate Professor's Development Grant

Study Period: 7/1/08–6/30/13

This study developed, piloted and implemented an online survey measuring the association between home ownership and health, a portion of which inquired about home foreclosures and stressors.


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