Marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Minority Leader James Oddo, Council Members Vincent Ignizio and Michael McMahon, and President of the College of Staten Island, Dr. Tomás Morales, gathered today to announce $80,000 in City Council funding to conduct a study examining the high rate of breast cancer deaths in Staten Island. This groundbreaking study will be conduced by the College of Staten Island’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES). Through this study, the College hopes to identify the cancer clusters within the borough and release findings that will help both Staten Island residents and the medical community, determine the causes of such high mortality rates, as well as bring awareness to this salient women’s health issue.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of female mortality on Staten Island. In an effort to address the concerns of Staten Islanders over the high rate of breast cancer in the borough, the College of Staten Island’s CES initiated The Staten Island Breast Cancer Research Initiative (SIBCRI). As a result of the City Council funding being announced today, the SIBCRI will convene an interdisciplinary team of experts to spearhead the study.

“Breast cancer is among the most common type of cancer among women over 40,” said Speaker Quinn. “The most important step in combating this deadly disease is getting continuously screened. The earlier cancer is detected, the better chance women have in beating it. This breast cancer study will allow us to understand why women in parts of Staten Island are dying at such high rates. I want to thank the Staten Island delegation and the College of Staten Island and the Staten Island Research Initiative for this very important and potentially life-saving research for thousands of women in the borough.”

“One of the underlying health care issues on Staten Island is the high rate of breast cancer, and the high rate of mortality associated with breast cancer, among Staten Island women,” said President Morales. “This must be addressed and to the great credit of Speaker Quinn and Councilman Oddo, they have seen the need and have stepped forward with an innovative proposal.”

“I am not sure I can recite another initiative with which I have been associated during my time in office that makes me as proud as this endeavor. We are talking about the health of the women of Staten Island – our moms, our sisters, our wives, and our daughters. When I received the letter from Donna Gerstle in January 2008 requesting help with this study, one person immediately can to mind: Speaker Christine Quinn. It is because of her that I and the Staten Island Council Delegation can lend our financial support to this truly important effort,” said Minority Leader and Council Member Oddo.

“I would like to thank the College of Staten Island’s Center for Environmental Studies for their efforts,” said Council Member McMahon. “I am hopeful that the results of this study will bring about awareness for Staten Island women and as a result reduce breast cancer incidences. In addition, I would like to thank Speaker Quinn and the Council for providing this funding for such an important cause.”

“As we all know, cancer must be fought on two fronts; treating the disease, and preventing new cases. I hope this research makes headway in both areas,” said Council Member Ignizio.

The CES at CSI has been examining breast cancer death rates among Staten Island females. Preliminary analysis demonstrated a significantly increased risk for female breast cancer with length of residence on Staten Island. Findings also include significantly high rates in and around the Fresh Kills Landfill area. Researchers at the CES, recognized internationally for their work in cancer research, will now focus the next phase of the research to find out why Staten Island females have a higher rate of breast cancer incidence and mortality than those in the other boroughs.

The Study

In this study qualified subjects are individuals whose obituaries can be located through the identifiers (of age, sex, date of death, and address) given by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH), and local papers, which publish obituaries for approximately 70% of all Staten Islanders. After these individuals are identified with the above variables like age, sex, length of residence in the borough, residential history, education, and military service, among others, they are recorded on a data entry sheet. This data is then entered into a database and statistical analyses are performed. All of the analyses will use logistic regression on multiple matched replicates and report the median result. All cases and controls will be mapped using the Geographic Information System (GIS).

A Staten Island female breast cancer mortality case-control study will examine the risk factors associated with length of residence on Staten Island, occupation, and socioeconomic factors. Individuals who died from primary breast tumors and a set of matched controls will be obtained from the NYCDOHMH for the calendar years 1991 through 2007. Previously, researchers identified, through the NYCDOHMH, 653 breast cancer cases for 1980 to 1990. It is expected that the NYCDOHMH will identify approximately 1,000 cases and 2,000 matched controls yielding obituary information on approximately 630 cases and 1,260 controls.

According to the NYCDOHMH, breast cancer has been the second leading cause of death among New York City women for several years, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all deaths city-wide in 2005.

Health officials recommend that all women 40 years and older have a mammography once every one to two years, with specific recommendations to be determined by the woman’s doctor. Screening mammography is an important way to identify potential cancers at an earlier stage and has been shown to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

Funds raised for the Staten Island Breast Cancer Research Initiative will provide support for population and biological based studies and educational outreach programs.