Cancer Society seeking people for new study

Two years ago at the Relay For Life of Central Blair, Deb Greene enrolled in Cancer Prevention Study-3. She filled out a survey, gave a blood sample and had her waist measured.

Although it took minimal effort, Greene said she hopes one day the American Cancer Society will be able to use the data from its survey to determine which lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors cause cancer.

“To me, an hour is nothing. [Neither is] a little bit of blood,” she said. “If I can affect generations to come, that’s fine.”

Launched in 2006, study researchers have been working to gather data from as many as 300,000 participants nationwide.

Before enrollment ends this December, they’re looking for 300 residents living in or near Blair and Bedford counties to enroll.

“Many individuals diagnosed with cancer struggle to answer the question, ‘What caused my cancer?’ In many cases, we don’t know the answer,” said Dr. Alpa Patel, principal study investigator, in a press release.

Data gathered from the study over the next 20 to 30 years holds the best hope of “identifying new and emerging cancer risks,” Patel said. “We can only do this if members of the community are willing to become involved.”

Prior studies, CPS-1 and CPS-2, were the blocks upon which CPS-3 will build, said American Cancer Society spokeswoman Emily Lloyd.

The first research efforts with the American Cancer Society began in the 1950s, Lloyd said, and played a major role in understanding what factors put a person at risk for cancer or help prevent the disease from developing.

For instance, prior studies helped confirm the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, the impact of air pollution on the heart and lungs and the correlation between larger waist sizes and death rates, from cancer as well as other diseases.

CPS-2 launched in 1982 and began looking at lifestyle factors, Lloyd said, but lifestyles and the way researchers understand cancer has changed, requiring the launch of a new test.

Now, with CPS-3, Lloyd said researchers are looking for people between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never had cancer, excluding basal and squamous-cell skin cancer, to participate.

After calling the American Cancer Society or going online to make an appointment to enroll, participants will then go online to complete a comprehensive survey or complete a paper study at enrollment.

“It’s not that long, but it is in-depth and covers a lot of different topics,” she said.

Participants will be expected to spend 30 to 60 minutes answering questions about personal and family medical history, vitamins and supplements and physical activity.

Lloyd said other questions will ask about residential history, sun exposure and tobacco use and exposure, along with basic personal information.

“We’re looking at many factors,” she said.

At the enrollment appointment, participants will sign a consent form and, like Greene did, have their waist measured and a blood sample taken that will be stored for future analysis.

From then, participants can expect to receive a survey every few years that takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

“My mom is a two-time cancer survivor,” said one study participant in an American Cancer Society press release. “I’m doing all I can to make sure my children don’t have to say that [about me]. … I really believe this [study] is part of the answer.”

Having lost three family members to cancer, Greene said she knows that cancer is a disease affecting many lives and that many people can find a way to contribute.

Because cancer survivors themselves can’t participate in the study, she said she’s hoping close friends or family members will enroll in their honor.

“We’re looking for them to be our ray of hope,” Greene said.

In her 19 years of volunteering with the American Cancer Society, Greene already has done a lot for the group. But she said if she can even play an extra, small part, to help prevent cancer in even one person, “I’ll do whatever I need to do.”