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Adolescent Program

Adolescent Breast Cancer Prevention, Risk Reduction and Education Project

The Adolescent Education project was created to communicate information learned from the Adolescent Risk Factors Study and related research suggesting that puberty and adolescence may be influential periods for the development of breast cancer. The Adolescent Education project came about as a result of concerns expressed by mothers and breast cancer survivors, coupled with Zero Breast CancerÔs commitment to developing educational strategies to reduce breast cancer risk for the current generation. Funding for the initial creation of the program was provided through a $10,000 grant from the Marin Breast Cancer Council and $5,000 from SBC. Additional support was provided by the Avon Foundation.



To create persuasive, developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive breast cancer risk reduction and educational messages that will motivate adolescent girls living in Marin County to reduce lifetime breast cancer risk through minimizing exposures to known or suspected environmental factors and through practicing healthy behaviors.

To increase community awareness of the growing evidence that early life events can play a role in the development of breast cancer, including the onset of puberty and the accompanying changes in mammary gland development. To communicate new directions in research suggesting that adolescence may be a period of susceptibility requiring extra caution and awareness.

To disseminate research evidence suggesting that adolescent choices regarding diet, alcohol, physical activity and specific environmental exposures may affect later breast cancer risk. To translate information from research into factors associated with breast cancer in a manner that is useful and effective for adolescents, parents and teachers.


The Need

Survey: A Spring 2004 Zero Breast Cancer survey of 140 Marin County middle school and high school teachers has indicated that student questions frequently prompt classroom discussions on breast cancer, followed by specific lessons, projects, and outside speakers. Marin adolescent students are personally concerned about breast cancer, often because a parent, relative, or someone they know is directly affected by this disease. A significant number of students are aware of Marin CountyÔs high breast cancer incidence. When asked to identify classroom needs, teachers were interested in information on prevention, including lifestyle and environmental precautions, genetic factors, and targeted materials for older teen girls and students who are coping with breast cancer in the family. The majority of teachers surveyed would consider using brief, targeted breast cancer educational materials appropriate for their students and the subjects they teach.

Focus Groups: Marin teen girls and mothers of teen girls echoed similar themes during a series of focus groups conducted by an experienced moderator in May-June 2004. Participants perceived a gap in specific information about breast cancer for adolescent girls living in Marin County, although they were aware of the significant incidence and impact on the community. Local teen girls have a variety of concerns and would like to have access to credible, personally relevant information. Mothers of teen girls are interested in resources for talking with their daughters about breast cancer, including what is currently known about risk-reduction. Mothers with breast cancer have expressed a need for more specific information and support for teens coping with breast cancer in the family. Zero Breast CancerÔs focus group results indicated that Marin teens and mothers of adolescent girls would be interested in a multi faceted teen breast cancer awareness and education program integrated with health education in the schools.

Comparative Educational Models: Other regions in the country have established effective, model adolescent outreach breast cancer education programs during the past ten years. Through creatively employing teen friendly media to translate scientific principles and promote a focus on personal health, thousands of teens are being educated annually about what is known about breast cancer and steps they can take to stay healthy and informed. During the past year, the Zero Breast Cancer Community Advisory Committee evaluated educational materials and interviews with directors from the following distinct programs developed by professional health educators:

  • Teens Talk About Breast Cancer, Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline Support Program
  • Growing Healthy Girls - Environment & Breast Cancer Teaching Tools for Change, Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors
  • Check-It-Out Teen Health Awareness Program, Hadassah WomenÔs Zionist Organization
  • B.S.E. Better Start Early, Alice Aycock Poe Health Education Center in Raleigh, North Carolina

Each of these programs offer strategies and resources that could be effectively incorporated into an adolescent breast cancer educational program unique to Marin County.


Adolescent Education Pilot Project Achieves Successful Results

Zero Breast Cancer has completed a groundbreaking pilot project using peer education techniques to disseminate messages to high school students about breast cancer and risk factors, targeting both girls and boys ages 13–15. Through a single lesson module, established breast cancer risk factors are introduced as well as the role physical activity, diet and avoidance of known and suspected environmental carcinogens. During the current school year, Susan Schwartz, ZBC Education Director, conducted training sessions with a team of twelve Drake High School peer educators (ages 15–18), who then presented the lesson format to health and social issues classes. Students learned about preventive health and daily life choices that can make a difference in individual breast cancer risk reduction over a woman’s lifespan.

The trained team of peer educators reached nearly 300 students at Sir Francis Drake High School in 2006. A talented graphics student also designed a teen-friendly brochure with information and resources.

The comprehensive program evaluation showed that the project outcomes were highly successful:

  • A high percentage of the students increased their knowledge of breast cancer facts and factors

  • Most students agreed that the presentations made them more aware of the risks of breast cancer

  • The majority of students agreed that they learned new ways to modify the risks for breast cancer

  • Student participants devised a personal action plan to apply the information to their daily lives

  • Peer educators and teachers were interested in continuing the program with suggested improvements

This three-year program started with Zero Breast Cancer’s community assessment of adolescent breast cancer information needs in Marin County. Working with breast cancer advisors and educators in 2005, Zero Breast Cancer collaborated with the Tamalpais Union High School District and the Drake High Peer Resource program to create an adolescent breast cancer preventive education curriculum module. The pilot project evaluation activities consisted of classroom pre-and post-test student surveys, professionally moderated focus groups, and interviews with students, teachers and school district personnel. Dr. Martin Forst, a program evaluator with the California statewide peer health education programs, directed the formal on-site project evaluation activities in coordination with Zero Breast Cancer. Consulting therapist Nancy Boughey, LCSW, moderated the pilot project’s focus groups with student participants and peer educators.

Click here to visit the Breast Cancer and Environment - Peer Education Tool Kit home page

A $10,000 evaluation grant from the Marin Community Foundation was combined with funding from the Avon Foundation and direct donations to Zero Breast Cancer to finance the pilot project implementation. According to Executive Director Janice Barlow, “We depend on the ongoing support from foundations and individual donors. The achievements of our Adolescent Education Program are visible evidence of the value we can deliver to the community with their involvement and support. We look forward to expanding the use of this innovative adolescent peer education breast cancer lesson module to other interested communities.”

Thank You to our 2007 Adolescent Education Project Sponsors

Zero Breast Cancer gratefully acknowledges the continuing support of the Avon Foundation and the To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation. Each of these foundations has granted additional funding in 2007-08 to support Zero Breast Cancer's adolescent breast cancer prevention education program.

Zero Breast Cancer (ZBC) is actively disseminating the Breast Cancer and Environment Peer Education Tool Kit to health educators and interested high schools in Marin, San Francisco and Alameda County. ZBC continues to partner with the Sir Francis Drake High School peer education program in community presentations on this project.

Thanks to the support of the Avon Foundation, the To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation and individual and community donors, ZBC is promoting the Tool Kit at conferences statewide, and we are raising awareness of the Tool Kit resource with educators and breast cancer advocates.


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