FACCA-funded team to study cervical cancer prevention in Florida

Stephanie Staras, Ph.D.

By Ian Bennett | bennettian@ufl.edu

Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of health outcomes & biomedical informatics in the UF College of Medicine, has received a Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance (FACCA) grant to study trends in cervical cancer screening and follow-up care among women in Florida.

Staras, a member of the UF Health Cancer Center, is collaborating on the pilot project grant with co-principal investigators Jessica Islam, Ph.D., assistant professor of cancer epidemiology at Moffitt Cancer Center, and Matthew Schlumbrecht, M.D., associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This project, along with two others awarded in this year’s funding cycle, is supported by the state of Florida and made possible by the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program.

A highly preventable cancer, cervical cancer can be detected with routine screening and prevented by treating precancerous lesions when detected. In the United States, a disproportionate number of cervical cancers occur among racial and ethnic minorities, women living with HIV, women living in rural areas and women living in the Southeastern United States.

The incidence of cervical cancer is higher in Florida than the rest of the country, and almost 50% of women diagnosed in the UF Health Cancer Center’s catchment area are diagnosed at advanced stages. The high incidence may be due to inequities in screening access; increasing access to screening could be an effective way to prevent cervical cancers in the state.

Staras and her team will use the University of Florida’s OneFlorida+ Data Trust, American Medical Association Masterfile data and publicly available area-level social determinants of health data to gather insight into Florida-specific trends and social determinants of cervical cancer. They will collect and analyze data surrounding cervical cancer screening receipt and follow-ups visits. They will also characterize screenings and follow-up visits that do not follow the guidelines to understand the barriers involved.

This data will help develop interventions designed to reach underserved groups in North Florida. The research could also identify previously unknown factors that have led to the disproportionate number of cervical cancer cases in the Cancer Center’s catchment area.

The ultimate goal is to establish a statewide network of coordinated cervical cancer prevention efforts, which will be crucial to make progress in eliminating preventable cervical cancer in the state, per the 2018 World Health Organization’s global call to action.

“I am excited to join Drs. Islam and Schlumbrecht in using the OneFlorida+ data trust to increase understanding of reduce cervical cancer screening and follow-up,” Staras said.

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