MVP needs women vets for new cancer screening study

Jonathan Kaupanger
March 22, 2018 - 11:14 am

Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA

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The Million Veteran Program (MVP) needs women veterans. In return, MVP is coming up with a new way to screen for breast cancer.

MVP is a national VA program to understand how genes affect health and illness. Right now, around 600,000 veterans are enrolled, but only 8 percent are women. Researchers would like that number to be at least 11 percent in order to get better results.

“Because we’re such a minority in the veteran population,” explains Kayla M. Williams, Director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “We really need high participation by women so there are enough women enrolled in this genetic study to be able to get valid data about genes that affect health and wellness among women.”

Researchers in MVP are using data from women veterans to build a new screening strategy for breast cancer. The end result should be a more personalized approach when looking for cancer. Up until now, most studies have been of civilian, Caucasian women. This study will be more diverse and look to see if military experience affects breast cancer risks.

"We’ve been really supportive in our office to encourage women to enroll,” said Williams. “It’s so important that we get women enrolled in the MVP so that they can assist in this tremendously important research.”

Active participation in the program includes filling out surveys, giving blood samples and allowing access to VA health information. Patient protection is built into the program. The blood samples are kept in a secured VA lab and the research database is encrypted and needs special permissions to access the data.

Other programs that are currently part of MVP include a study exploring heart disease risk factors, how genes affect kidney disease and even looking into the genetic risk for suicide. 

If you’d like to get more information on VA’s Million Veteran Program you can call 866.441.6075. You can also see if your medical center is an MVP enrollment site here