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July 21, 2005

Environmental oncology center gets grant

The Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute has received a four-year, $1 million grant from the Highmark Foundation to develop an initiative aimed at reducing environmental health risks in homes, schools and communities, and promoting healthy behaviors.

The initiative, Highmark Healthy Places, Healthy People, was awarded to the center in recognition of its work to address environmental threats to health and to communicate how individuals can limit exposure to these threats.

“We know that at least two-thirds of all cancers are caused by factors outside the body,” said Devra Davis, director of the Pitt center and professor of epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health. “The minority community in particular faces a heavy burden from cancer which may reflect avoidable risk factors that are not well-recognized. Some of these cancer risks include lifestyle choices, such as smoking and nutrition, but they also include exposures to certain manmade and natural substances.”

According to Davis, the program will take a multifaceted approach to public outreach and education by generating and testing multimedia educational materials and web-based instructional programs; using interactive technologies, such as virtual interviews, and generating print materials, radio and television promotional and informational announcements targeted to specific communities. Working in tandem with the school’s Center for Minority Health and with partners at major universities in New York, the Center for Environmental Oncology will generate culturally appropriate messages to promote health protective behaviors for individuals and communities.

A few of the many initiatives within the program include the development of age-appropriate environmental health sciences curricula for Pittsburgh public schools; public school partnerships to develop school audits aimed at promoting energy efficiency and reducing waste; professional and public lecture series on environmental causes of cancer aimed at racially diverse groups within the region, and the identification of priority issues in the community regarding environmental oncology and the creation of materials to address these topics.

For more information on the program, visit

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