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Project launched to investigate breast cancer’s link to race

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by Cancer Research UK | News

16 June 2002

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A north London medical student is to undertake an important research project to establish if people of mixed race have a higher risk of breast cancer. The study has been made possible thanks to funding from Cancer Research UK.

Shiva Dindyal, from Holloway, will travel to Trinidad to undertake the two month study. The island’s population is made up of a wide range of races – many individuals can trace family links to Indian, African and Chinese ancestors – making it the ideal location to test the theory.

The charity’s bursary will allow Shiva to analyse the last five years of breast cancer data at the General Hospital in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Similar studies in the United States have suggested that there is a link. If the connection is proved it could contribute to improved targeting of breast cancer screening in both the UK and Caribbean population.

Shiva, who is based at the Imperial College School of Medicine, was inspired to pursue the research because breast cancer is now a major cause of death on the Island.

He says: “The Trinidadian population is very mixed and is an ideal group to observe any relationship between ethnicity and breast cancer. Unfortunately the island’s screening process is also quite poor, so I hope that if we can get some results it will mean we will be able to better target screening at groups most at risk.

Shiva will work in the General Hospital’s Casualty department and alongside some of the regions top cancer specialists. He will also investigate the effects of poverty on cancer care and will research palliative care in the region.

“This will also allow me to improve my clinical and research skills. Overall I hope this will form a basis for my ambition of becoming a breast surgeon,” adds Shiva.

The bursaries are given to outstanding students and offer them the chance to travel overseas for two months to carry out a research project on an aspect of cancer. Shiva is in his fifth year of a medical degree at Imperial College School of Medicine, and is one of just eight students from across the country chosen to receive an award.

Cancer Research UK’s Director Of Education Funding, Jean King, says: “This is an area that needs more research. Anything that can help identify groups that are at risk is useful in the fight against cancer. Shiva’s research will be valuable and could form the basis of further research.”

She adds that cancer research in developing countries is an area that is often overlooked because their medical services are generally under resourced and over stretched.