Sylvester Researcher Honored with Minority Faculty Scholar Award

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., C.P.H., has been honored for his scholarly work investigating cancer screening practices among Florida’s firefighters. Caban-Martinez received the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2018 Minority Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Award at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

“This is well-deserved recognition for amazing work that is making a huge difference,” said Erin N. Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director of Sylvester and senior associate dean for health disparities at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The AACR award is primarily supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.

Caban-Martinez, assistant professor of public health sciences, presented his study on “Disparities in Cancer Screening Between Latino and Non-Latino Firefighters: Evidence from the Firefighter Cancer Initiative Experience” at the AACR conference in April. Miller School co-authors of the study were Natasha Schaefer Solle, Ph.D., RN; Tulay Koru-Sengul, M.H.S., M.A., Ph.D.; Katerina M. Santiago, M.P.H.; Kevin Moore; Feng Miao, M.S.; David J. Lee, Ph.D.; and Kobetz.

“We found that Florida firefighters of Latino ethnicity tend to participate less in routine cancer screening practices compared with their non-Latino firefighter counterparts,” Caban-Martinez said. “We need strategies at the fire station or individual firefighter level to improve cancer screening disparities within this high-risk minority workforce.”

Noting that firefighters face an increased risk for work-related exposures to hazardous environmental carcinogens, Caban-Martinez said regular and tailored screenings for firefighters are vital for early cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Caban-Martinez’s study drew on data collected by the Annual Cancer Survey research project of the Firefighter Cancer Initiative launched in 2015. About 3,150 volunteer and professional firefighters from 250 departments statewide completed the survey. “We went around the state, contacting firefighters in different stations working different shifts to gather the data,” he said. “Our goal was to prioritize areas for cancer prevention.”

After controlling for variables such as age, geographic location, family history of cancer and access to health insurance, the study found that Latinos were less likely to participate in screenings such as mammograms or prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests. For instance, only 25.7 percent of male Latino firefighters ever had a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer, versus 38.1 percent of non-Latino firefighters. The difference was similar for colonoscopies to assess for colon cancer. Caban-Martinez added, “The number of Latino firefighters who had not seen a doctor in the past 12 months was 5.1 percent – significantly higher than the 4.2 percent for non-Latino firefighters.”

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