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October 29, 2002

UCSF Researchers Team with ADA to Fight Oral Cancer

In a nationwide project to fight oral cancer through prevention and early
detection, the National Cancer Institute has awarded $1.2 million to
researchers at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry
to create a program of oral cancer prevention in collaboration with the
American Dental Association (ADA).

Oral cancer strikes more than 30,000 Americans and accounts for more than 9,000 deaths each year in the U.S.  Despite advances in oral cancer treatment, only about one-half of all persons diagnosed with the disease survive more than five years.

"Early detection is the most important approach in decreasing the morbidity
and mortality of oral cancer," said Sol Silverman, Jr., DDS, UCSF professor of
oral medicine and principal investigator of the five-year project.  Silverman
is a consultant to the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional
Relations and a pioneer and expert in oral cancer education, patient care and
research.

The UCSF researchers will develop and implement a continuing education program
focusing on oral cancer prevention education for practicing dentists in the
U.S.   Key components will include risk assessment and risk reduction for
tobacco and alcohol use, chemoprevention, early detection and diagnosis.

Data indicate that the majority of at-risk Americans do not benefit from oralcancer screening from their primary care professionals, and survival rates have not significantly changed in the past 20 years, according to Silverman.  The plan is to increase dentists' skills in early detection of oral cancer because,thus far, this is the most important approach in decreasing morbidity and
mortality of oral cancer.

Barbara Gerbert, PhD, UCSF professor and chair of the division of behavioral
sciences, is principal investigator of the UCSF portion of the project, working
with Silverman and the ADA to evaluate the educational program by surveying
dentists before, immediately after and six months after participating in the
program.  Gerbert has conducted extensive research in the field of evaluating
health care providers' knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, with particular
emphasis on ways to support the provider's risk assessment and intervention
activities.

A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health (June, 2002) confirmed
that many dentists frequently neglect to ask patients about their tobacco use;
however, more than 95 percent of surveyed dentists said they were willing to
receive training in tobacco cessation services.  Improving the dentists'
screening and smoking cessation skills could greatly increase smoking
cessation, according to the researchers. "More than half of all tobacco users
visit the dentist at least once a year, and patients in the 20 to 44-year-old
age group are more likely to visit a dentist than a physician," Gerbert said.

"Many patients want help quitting tobacco use," Gerbert explained. "Dentists
have an excellent opportunity to screen and counsel patients as well as provide
a number of  effective resources.  This project will prepare dentists to become
a more significant part of our overall efforts to fight tobacco and its health
effects," she said.

During the first year of the project, investigators will formulate the course
and materials, train educators to present the course and develop the outcome
assessment tools.  In the fall of 2003, the courses will be presented to
dentists nationwide.

This project will also explore the potential use of the standardized
continuing education program for other health care professionals, for instance,
dental hygienists, nurse practitioners and primary care physicians.

Key collaborators on the grant include Dale Danley, MPH, UCSF analyst; Stuart
Gansky, DrPH, UCSF assistant professor of preventive and restorative dental
sciences; Jane McGinley, RDH, MBA, manager of preventive health activities for
the ADA; and K. Vendrell Rankin, DDS, associate professor of public health
sciences, Baylor College of Dentistry.

Source: UCSF News Twink Stern

 

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