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A black woman standing in front of a mammography deviceHow can the Moving Forward breast cancer program help black women live longer?

Although breast cancer (BC) survival has steadily improved for European American (EA) women over the past few decades, similar improvements have not been observed for African American (AA) women. In 2006, 32 BC deaths were reported nationally for every 100,000 women-years among AA compared to only 23 among EA.

In Chicago, this disparity grew over the past decade and is even higher than that observed nationally. During 1999-2003 the BC mortality rate was 49% higher for AA women than for EA women. This disparity increased to 68% in 2003 and 116% in 2005 and remains even after controlling for age, SES, tumor stage and histology, hormone receptor status, and menopausal status. Not only are AA women with breast cancer more likely than EA women to die from their cancer, they are also more likely to die from co-morbid conditions including diabetes and hypertension. Poor diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity contribute to breast cancer progression, as well as the development and exacerbation of many co-morbid conditions. Efforts to reduce the high mortality rates observed in AA women with breast cancer are critically needed, and addressing poor diet, lack of physical activity, and high rates of obesity may provide the best near-term opportunity to decrease breast cancer and all-cause mortality among AA BC survivors.

In response to this battle one researcher from a major university in Chicago created Moving Forward.

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Moving Forward is a 6-month long research-based weight loss and nutrition program that was developed with and for African-American breast cancer survivors to address their interest in making important lifestyle changes after their breast cancer treatment. For many women, the end of breast cancer treatments is both a relief and a worry. Although the women are glad to be done with treatment, they also worry about what they need to do now to keep themselves healthy and to gain back their energy. Plus, since most women gain weight as a result of their breast cancer treatment, many are looking for support to eat healthier, exercise more and lose some weight.

In partnership with the Chicago Park District, this program will be available to women in several communities throughout the Chicago land area. Currently classes are being conducted at Palmer Park in the Pullman area and Don Nash Community Center in South Shore and will be coming to Columbus Park in Austin this spring. Dr. Melinda Stolley of UIC is the program director at UIC and her main focus of the research program is to explore which of two approaches is more effective: a guided weight loss program that involves twice weekly meetings at the park district OR a self-guided weight loss program where women receive all program materials and proceed through the program at their own pace without having to attend twice weekly meetings.

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