As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday it's looking for local residents to participate in a new research study in its continued fight against cancer. The Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) is asking for at least 300,000 men and women nationwide to support cancer research, not only through fundraising, but by giving their time to increase scientific knowledge about what causes cancer and how to prevent it.

Contra Costa County residents have a chance to enroll in this historic study on Wednesday. The study is looking for men and women of various racial and ethnic backgrounds between the ages of 30 and 65 with no personal history of cancer and willing to make a long-term commitment to the study.

The ultimate question of "Why participate" is easily answered. The more the American Cancer Society understands about cancer risks, the more it can help prevent cancer and save lives.

"Many individuals diagnosed with cancer struggle to answer the question, 'What caused my cancer?' In many cases we don't know the answer," said Alpa V. Patel, PhD, principal CPS-3 investigator. "CPS-3 will help us better understand what factors cause cancer, and once we know that, we can be better equipped to prevent cancer."

To enroll in the study requires a one-time in-person appointment to read and sign a consent form, complete a survey, provide a waist measurement and give a small, non-fasting blood sample similar to one taken during a routine doctor visit. A more detailed survey can be completed at home. Once enrolled, participants will continue to receive periodic follow-up surveys approximately every two years and research updates.

The American Cancer Society first began conducting long-term follow-up studies in the 1950s and these studies have played a major role in cancer prevention by helping to understand how tobacco, obesity, diet, physical activity, hormone use, air pollution and other exposures are related to cancer and other diseases.

The goal of CPS-3 is to identify new and emerging factors in lifestyle, environment and genetics that can affect cancer risk, to understand these factors and to eventually eliminate cancer as a major health concern for future generations.

"We're gathering information about people's behavior and their exposure," said Dr. Carolyn Bruzdzinski, chief mission delivery officer, California Division of the American Cancer Society. "We're looking to see if there are particular cancers that are more frequent when you do certain behaviors versus other things. Ultimately what that all helps are what are the causes of cancer."

CPS-3 sets up a new population study, one needed because as lifestyle and environment changes over time, new studies are required to understand these changes and their effects on cancer risk.

"We are exposed to very different things than we were 40 years ago; we eat differently, we have different medications and we exercise differently," Bruzdzinski said. "All of these things have changed so we need to understand how all of these things affect your cancer risk."

The success of a study like CPS-3 rests on communities across the United States. Large numbers of participants are needed and their lives need to be followed or "tracked" over a long period of time. The small amount of time required to participate doesn't seem too big a price to pay for helping future generations decrease their risk of cancer.

"What we're going to learn from this study is going to have a profound effect on our children and our children's children," Bruzdzinski said. "As we learn from this study what creates cancer risk and how to prevent cancer we will have so much more information and people will be able to adopt the appropriate behaviors that would reduce their cancer risk."

If you go
Contra Costa County residents can enroll in CPS-3 at Epic Care, 4721 Dallas Ranch Road, Antioch, from 4-8 p.m. April 24. For more information, visit www.cancer.org/cps3, email cps3@cancer.org or call 888-604-5888.