More than 180,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and no single event brings attention to this deadly disease more than the Race for the Cure, sponsored by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Thousands of runners and walkers will participate in the annual 5k event Sunday, Sept. 28, at Newport Beach’s Fashion Island. It’s one of about 120 of such races around the world that draw 1.5 million people and raise more than $150 million annually to fight breast cancer.

Komen isn’t alone in this effort. In Orange County, the battle is joined by breast cancer doctors, surgeons and researchers affiliated with the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC Irvine.

In partnership with Komen’s Orange County affiliate, UCI cancer epidemiologists are conducting a collaborative breast cancer data analysis project (click on education programs/community assessment for access) to identify and address disparities in breast cancer incidence and prevalence in Orange County.

The project has revealed significant racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and age disparities in breast cancer diagnosis. The hope is that data gleaned from this effort can help community-based organizations, healthcare providers and local policymakers provide targeted breast cancer screening, treatment and support services.

“It’s crucial that we study breast cancer locally so we can ensure that all women in Orange County have access to regular screening,” says UCI’s Sarah Marshall, project statistician. “It’s through early detection that we really can save lives.”

The work done at UCI to fight breast cancer is far-reaching. Researchers like Eva Lee have made breakthrough discoveries on the genetics of the disease, and a Beckman Laser Institute team is leading a national effort to develop and standardize laser imaging technology that improves detection, therapy management and quality of life for breast cancer patients.

Oncologists at UC Irvine Medical Center also are involved with large-scale clinical studies on promising new breast cancer diagnostics and treatments. The Chao Center’s expert scientific community is internationally renowned for its work in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The National Cancer Institute designated it one of 41 comprehensive centers in the nation and the only one in Orange County.

“The combination of basic and clinical research at the Chao Center helps build a foundation for high-quality, comprehensive care for all breast cancer patients,” says Dr. Rita Mehta, medical director of the breast center at Chao. “Our oncologists and surgeons are recognized leaders in the field, giving our patients a larger horizon for diagnostic and treatment opportunities.”