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News Highlights

July 25, 2011

New study finds cancer-causing mineral in U.S. road gravel
Erionite in North Dakota roads may increase risk of mesothelioma

As school buses, trucks and cars drive down the gravel roads in Dunn County, North Dakota, they stir up more than dirt. The clouds of dust left in their wake contain such high levels of the mineral erionite that those who breathe in the air every day are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, a type of cancer of the membranes around the lungs, new research shows. Erionite is a natural mineral fiber that shares similar physical similarities with asbestos. When it’s disturbed by human activity, fibers can become airborne and lodge themselves in people’s lungs. Over time, the embedded fibers can lead to mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer most often associated with the related mineral asbestos.

Michele Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, has previously linked erionite exposure in some Turkish villages to unusually high rates of mesothelioma. Recently, he and colleagues turned their attention to potential erionite exposure in the U.S., where at least 12 states have erionite-containing rock deposits. His team—which includes scientists from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental Protection Agency, New York University, University of Chicago, University of Iowa, and University of Hacettepe—focused their efforts on North Dakota, when they learned that rocks containing erionite have been used to produce gravel for the past 30 years. More than 300 miles of roads are now paved with the gravel. The study, reported in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to look at the potential hazards associated with erionite exposure in the U.S.

"Based on the similarity between the erionite from the two sources,” says Carbone, “there is concern for increased risk of mesothelioma in North Dakota.” The long latency period of the disease—it can take 30 to 60 years of exposure to cause mesothelioma—and the fact that many erionite deposits have only been mined in the past few decades suggests that the number of cases could soon be on the rise. In addition to North Dakota, California, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and other states have erionite deposits, but the possibility of human exposure elsewhere in the U.S. has not yet been investigated. The study was funded through grants from the National Cancer Institute and the 2008 AACR-Landon Innovator Award for International Collaboration in Cancer Research.

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News Highlights


Cancer prevention is essential to reducing cancer risk. The University of Hawaii Cancer Center’s Prevention and Control Program is focused on a shared vision of creating a world that is cancer free. Its mission is to conduct research that reduces cancer health disparities and improves survivorship in the people of Hawaii and the Pacific.

This summer, the program welcomed Pebbles Fagan, PhD, MPH, as its new director. Dr. Fagan was most recently a health scientist at the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Control Research Branch of the Behavioral Research Program and she has big plans for the program’s future.

“We must create  an environment that fosters innovation with impact for regional, national, and international communities, says Dr. Fagan. “We must also be  dedicated to expanding research into practice so that we benefit those populations who bear an unequal burden of cancer.”

Although researchers today know more about cancer than ever before, racial and ethnic minorities still bear a disproportionate burden of cancer. Cancer disparities affect those whose age, income, health insurance status, geography, or socioeconomic position raises barriers to prevention and care.

Dr. Fagan and colleagues intend to increase attention to human-environmental interactions—a focus critical to reducing the cancer burden among all populations, with renewed energy. “Our communities expect us to show progress in the 21st century and we must deliver,” she said.

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News Highlights

May 12, 2012

“I Love the Skin I’m In” T-Shirt Design Contest Winners Announced at Kick-Off Event

Regina Prudenciano
Ryan Mart Bartolome
Mia Anduha

The “I Love the Skin I’m In” skin cancer awareness campaign kickoff event was held on Saturday, May 12 at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand.  Nearly 100 people got free skin cancer screenings while enjoying live music from B.E.T., Kendra, BasSick Concept, and Kainalu.  The winners of the Xcel Ventx t-shirt design contest were also announced.  Of the more than 70 entries received, judges determined 17-year-old Regina Prudenciano of Maui was the grand prize winner.  Along with winning an Apple iPad, her winning design was printed on Xcel Ventx shirts and is now being sold in Xcel’s Ward and Haleiwa stores.  A percentage of the sales will be given to the Cancer Center to continue support of future skin cancer awareness programs.

"My t-shirt design is based on an idea – protect your skin and live the life you love. When people, especially surfers or those who love to play under the sun often, see the design it reminds them of what they love to do. However, no one would ever want to stop what they love to do because of skin cancer. There is nothing worse than being told you can't do what you enjoy doing because of skin cancer. The design is to encourage people to protect their skin, so that they can enjoy their favorite activities for as long as they want,” Prudenciano said of her design.

The two runners up were Ryan Mart Bartolome of Maui and Mia Anduha of Mililani.  Congratulations to our winners!  To view all the contest entries visit

For event photos, visit:!/media/set/?set=a.386118988092531.80970.132430720128027&type=1

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News Highlights

April 24, 2012

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Decline; Hawai`i statistics reflect national report results.

Check acceptance

Death rates from all cancers combined for men, women, and children continued to decline in the United States between 2004 and 2008, according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2008. The overall rate of new cancer diagnoses, known as incidence, decreased in men by an average of 0.6 percent per year between 2004 and 2008.  Incidence rates among women declined 0.5 percent per year from 1998 through 2006 with rates leveling off from 2006 through 2008.

Overall age-adjusted cancer mortality rates in Hawai`i have continued to slowly decline over the last 30 years. During the period 2000-2005, the average annual cancer death rate was 192 per 100,000 in men and 125 per 100,000 in women.

The special feature section of the report also highlighted the effects of excess weight and lack of physical activity on cancer risk. These national trends are similar to those experienced by Hawai`i’s adult populations, specifically when referring to the steady decline in tobacco use and the marked increase in cancers associated with excess weight and obesity.

In Hawai`i, cigarette smoking rates among adults age 18 and older have seen a slow and steady decrease since 1994, ranging from 20.5 percent in 1994 to 17.4 percent in 2004, with a recent decrease down to 15.4 percent in 2008.

Hawai`i residents are also similar to their mainland counterparts in that they are not meeting the daily recommendations for physical activity or leisure time physical activity. Based on height to weight measures (known as body mass index or BMI), roughly about 50 percent of Hawai`i adults are considered to be overweight or obese.

Additionally, adults in Hawai`i, like their mainland counterparts, are unfortunately far from reaching the recommended guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, and body weight. A little more than one in four adults interviewed as part of the 2007 Hawai‘i Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System reported eating an average of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day (28.7 percent).

The national report also highlighted that the overall continued decline in cancer death rates indicated progress in cancer prevention and control methods. The decreases were also directly attributed to tobacco prevention and control efforts, adoption of cancer screenings and early detection methods, as well as improvements in treatment for many cancers.

The report was co-authored by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society. The full report can be accessed at:

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