Purpose of Research: Health disparities are associated with higher incidences of cancer in minority populations. The development of programs targeted toward underrepresented populations and evaluation of biomarkers to assess the effectiveness of such programs to improve health outcomes is essential to diminish disparities. The purpose of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness of a community based intervention program to reduce cancer disparities in at-risk populations. Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) was established in Springfield, Massachusetts in April 2010 to reduce health disparities and improve the health of men of color through holistic health promotion, health education and awareness, and physical activity participation.

Telomeres are the ends of genomic DNA. Telomere length has been related to cancer, aging, and cardiovascular diseases and appears to be influenced by lifestyle factors such as physical activity and perceived stress. Expanded research on specific interventions should be explored for potential to reduce cancer risks (1). Our continued investigations will allow us to determine whether telomere length in the DNA of blood cells is altered in men participating in the MOCHA program and whether this marker can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a community based intervention program in men of color. We believe that MOCHA will provide an intervention strategy to impact men's overall health and this will affect health disparities.

Experimental Procedures: Participants: 15 men were recruited from within Springfield for this pilot study. Men were African American and Latino age 35–55. Program Description: The MOCHA curriculum consists of an intensive 10-week fitness and health education and counseling program. Participants completed three surveys: 1) an assessment of the men's physical health, 2) perceptions of their own fitness, vitality and stress levels, and 3) the participants’ perceived knowledge and attitudes towards health and male identity. Physical fitness and health assessments included height, weight, resting heart rate and blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and body fat percentage. Upper and lower body strength was evaluated with a 3 repetition maximum (3-RM) test for the bench and leg press. Flexibility was evaluated with the sit and reach test. Endurance was assessed with a 12min walk/run test. Participants met 2x/wk for three hours per session.

Summation of Research: Preliminary data reveal that in 10 weeks participants lost 3.08 lbs, reduced their BMI by a quarter point, and reduced their body fat by 2.4%. All measures of physical fitness improved. Upper and lower body strength measures increased significantly with 15.9 lbs and 15.4 lbs, respectively. Flexibility (measured by stretching length while sitting) increased 1.95cm. MOCHA participants showed an improvement in perceived stress and had a 0.67 gain for controlling irritations and 0.5 percent gain in ability to cope with changes in their life. Our data reveals that men completing the MOCHA program improve a variety of health and fitness outcomes that have been related to cancer risk.

Conclusions: Our preliminary data reveal that the MOCHA program is effective in reducing various markers of physical and emotional health related to cancer risk. Our future studies will include an evaluation of the use of telomere length to evaluate the effectiveness of community based intervention programs for men of color.


1. Blackburn, et al Cancer Pre Res, 2011; 4(4); 473–475

Citation Information: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2011;20(10 Suppl):B7.