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Cancer prevention study looks at lifestyle factors

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY - Judi Swift of Fred Meyer, right, enrolled in the American Cancer Societys Cancer Prevention Study-3 because of a family history of cancer. A groundbreaking new research effort aimed at cancer rolled through Wilsonville last week.

And even though last Wednesday’s sign-up event has since come and gone; it’s still worth the time to examine what’s going on. After all, one in every three Americans, by the most recent projections, will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes.

If that isn’t enough to catch your interest, American Cancer Society officials aren’t quite sure what is.

Cancer Prevention Study-3 is an ambitious ACS project that is aiming to better understand a host of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that are thought to raise a person’s risk of cancer.

It will follow participants over 20 years to find out more about lifestyle and what factors potentially are connected with persons being diagnosed with cancer.

“What’s exciting about CPS-3 is we don’t know what we’re going to find out,” said Laura Potter, who serves as senior manager for hospital systems for the ACS. “Obesity correlates with some cancers, for example, and there are a lot of the questions in the survey that include asking about exercise, diet, other family members’ medical history. We have to find out how people live to know whether they are affected by cancer.”

The first Cancer Prevention Study established a link between smoking and cancer during a study that enrolled 1 million Americans in 1959 and 1960.

CPS-2 involved 1.2 million people starting in 1982 and has since helped establish a link between obesity, lack of physical activity and cancer.

Now, the nationwide CPS-3, which actually started five years ago, aims to enroll at least 300,000 volunteers between the ages of 30 and 65. Participants have no history of cancer, and it is the need to reach that benchmark that has led to this year’s expansion of the recruitment effort.

Judi Swift is the community relations coordinator for Fred Meyer, which is partnering with the ACS in helping sign up volunteers for Cancer Prevention Study-3. Swift lost her father to cancer and has two brothers who have fought prostate cancer, so she has a personal stake in the battle.

“It is very personal,” she agreed, adding that she dove headfirst into fighting cancer eight years ago when her father was dying. “I felt very helpless, so I got involved with the American Cancer Society and started the East Portland Relay for Life.”

Thus, it’s no coincidence the Wilsonville Fred Meyer served last week as an enrollment point for the prevention study. Swift said the company also held an enrollment event at company headquarters in Portland.

“It’s hard for (the ACS) to find a place that’s open to the public, that has some privacy and enough room to accommodate people,” she said. “There are a lot of confidentially regulations with it. And because we are such a partner with them, and our employees and customers and executives all believe in the mission that they do, we’d do anything to help them.”

The Wilsonville enrollment day was a one-day only effort that won’t be repeated, Potter said. But the wider enrollment effort won’t be finished until the end of the year. With a goal of 300,000 volunteers in mind, the study is tantalizingly close to reaching that mark — just 18,000 more remain to be signed up.

Locally, Potter added, the research that will emerge from the study might end up one day helping people living in the Interstate 5 corridor between Seattle and Eugene.

When it comes to breast cancer and some kinds of skin cancer, she said, this area has significantly higher-than-average diagnoses.

“We have some higher rates and we don’t know why,” Potter said. “So having people enrolled in our area has the potential to tell us why that’s happening.”

The Pacific Northwest also features a lifestyle distinct from the rest of the country. In part it’s the plethora of outdoor enthusiasts. But the opposite also holds true.

“Oregon is pretty high on the obesity lists,” Potter said. “Our lifestyle in America is our biggest carcinogen after tobacco.”

Enrollment events were also held last week in Hillsboro, Sherwood and at Tualatin’s Bridgeport Village.

“I enrolled in 2011,” said Gretchen Groves, communications manager for the ACS. “It’s been a long study, and I think we thought we would be getting more enrolled though Relay events; that’s how we initially started the enrollment. But last year we started these community enrollment events just to reach out to a different population.”

For more information, visit cancer.org/research/researchtopreventcancer/participate-cancer-prevention-3.



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