Faculty Q&A: Professor works to connect Latino men with cancer screening

Raffy Luquis

Raffy R. Luquis

Credit: Sharon Siegfried

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer among Latino men nationwide, according to the American Cancer Society, and screening rates among the recommended age group are lower than they should be.

Raffy R. Luquis, a professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State Harrisburg, is working to find ways to reach Latino men and encourage their participation in preventative measures that could keep them healthy.

Luquis, who holds a doctorate in health science from the University of Arkansas, has a broad background in health education and health promotion. His primary research and teaching interests include cultural competency and multicultural health, public health education and health promotion.

In this Q&A, Luquis shares information about his ongoing project, “A Faith-Based, Cancer Education Intervention on Colorectal Cancer Screening Among Latino Men Between the Ages 45-74 Years,” which is funded through a grant from Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute.

Q: Prior to this project, you examined Latino men’s attitudes and perceptions about chronic illnesses and prevention measures. What did you find out?  

Luquis: In 2018, I conducted a qualitative study with Latino men to better understand their perceptions of chronic illnesses and whether they engaged in behaviors to prevent chronic illnesses. I conducted this study with Latino men residing in Pennsylvania counties with large Latino communities. The results of that study informed us that their perceptions were influenced by the severity of chronic illnesses, their levels of concern about those illnesses, views of health and preventive behaviors, and other cultural factors. These results led me to the development of my current research study.

Q: Why is outreach and education about colorectal cancer screening important for this particular group – Latino men ages 45 to 74? 

Luquis: Nationally, colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second-leading cancer and the second-highest cause of cancer-related deaths among Latino men, according to the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women between the ages of 45-74 with average risk factors get screened for CRC as it can help prevent cancer through early detection and removal of precancerous growths. Still, CRC screening rates among Latinos have been reported to be lower than among non-Hispanic whites in the same age group. Latino men don’t often participate in community-based health promotion interventions; hence, it is important to find ways to get them to engage in these types of health promotion programs.

Q: How does your faith-based outreach initiative work, and are you finding it to be successful in reaching this group? 

Luquis: We have recruited Latino men to participate in CRC education and screening, with the help of faith-based organizations serving the Latino community through five counties (Dauphin, Lebanon, York, Lehigh and Lancaster). We are also getting the assistance of members of the Hispanic-Latino Cancer Community Advisory Board of the Penn State Cancer Institute to reach out to these communities. We give a presentation on CRC, the risk factors and other health information, all in Spanish. We have been somewhat successful in recruiting men to participate and follow through with at-home screening. Our best efforts have resulted when recruiting men with the help of established church groups or when we conducted the program right after a church service. In some instances, we have had the assistance of the pastor or priest to encourage men to participate.

Q: What are your overall goals with this project, and how could your findings be applied in the future? 

Luquis: The overall goal was to determine if Latino men would participate in this type of faith-based intervention, increase their knowledge about CRC, and complete CRC screening as recommended. We hope that participants learn about the risk of developing CRC and the steps they can take to prevent it and that it would encourage them to further talk to their primary care provider about it and follow up as needed to reduce the incidence of CRC among this group.

We could use the results of this study to support the development of comprehensive Latino men's community intervention for the promotion of CRC screening and cancer prevention. We could also use this information to develop other health promotion programs to educate Latino men and encourage them to engage in preventive behaviors related to other chronic illnesses. Finally, we would use the results to pursue additional support for these potential initiatives.

This Q&A is part of a series in which Penn State Harrisburg faculty will share their expertise on various topics.