You don’t have to be a doctor or scientist to help uncover the keys to preventing and curing cancer during the coming decades.
The American Cancer Society’s Northeast regional office is recruiting 750 area residents for a long-term national research study examining lifestyle, environmental, genetic and other factors that could contribute to cancer.
The nonprofit is seeking 300,000 participants nationwide who agree to be followed for 20 years or longer as part of the Cancer Prevention Study-3.
Previous generations of the study uncovered the link between smoking and lung cancer, as well as landmark findings on the impact of obesity on cancer risk, said Alpa Patel, an American Cancer Society researcher and principal investigator of Cancer Prevention Study-3.
“We have collectively had a significant number of scientific findings to what causes cancer and how to better prevent it,” she said. “Think about when the study began in the 1950s. Cancer was a near death sentence. Look at what we’ve learned. That’s possible because those generations paid it forward to us.”
The goal this time around is to make similar groundbreaking discoveries, Patel said.
By following people’s long-term medication use, activity levels and other habits and then tracking which participants develop cancer, researchers could potentially identify risk factors.
Researchers also will continue to track patients who develop cancer, Patel said. “We want to be able to inform what helps people stay healthy after a diagnosis.”
The study is open to people 30 to 65 who haven’t had cancer, except for nonmelanoma skin cancers (basal or squamous cell).
Participants fill out an initial, in-depth survey about their medical history, behaviors and lifestyles, said Anna Fetzer, local study coordinator for the latest Cancer Prevention Study. They also sign an informed consent form, give a small blood sample and have their waist measured during a scheduled appointment at YMCAs throughout the region May 18-23.
Enrollees then will be contacted every two or three years to fill out brief follow-up surveys to update their health status and provide other information for researchers.
“We don’t think it’s a huge time commitment, but it’s an important commitment in the fight against cancer,” Fetzer said.
Arnita Lewis of Akron saw firsthand the devastating effects of cancer on patients and their families when her father died in his early 50s from lung cancer about 30 years ago.
“It’s a very difficult, deteriorating illness to watch,” she said.
Her experience prompted her to volunteer with the American Cancer Society as a study participant and recruiter.
Lewis shared her story during an event last week at the Cuyahoga Falls Riverfront YMCA to kick off local recruitment efforts.
“It’s really a way to get involved and help prevent cancer, now and in the future,” she said.
Enrollees won’t receive individual results from any tests, Patel said, but they will get regular newsletters with updates about research findings.
Their privacy is maintained throughout the study, she said.
About 90 percent of the surviving enrollees from the Cancer Prevention Study-2 that started 31 years ago still fill out their surveys every two years, Patel said.
“We’re really looking for people who are willing to make that philosophical commitment,” she said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.