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Utahns get opportunity to help researchers discover causes of cancer

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12 2013 4:35 p.m. MDT

The American Cancer Society is enrolling Utahns in a historic study to get a better understanding of various causes of cancer and possible prevention measures.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Cancer researchers are tackling a tough topic and asking Utah residents to help.

Unlike much of the ongoing research to find a cure, a new nationwide study — backed by the American Cancer Society — aims to give physicians, patients and the public a better understanding of how cancer is caused, perhaps uncover more effective prevention measures, and, ultimately save lives.

Healthy people between the ages of 30 and 65, who have never been diagnosed with cancer, are asked to enroll in the Cancer Prevention Study by visiting the organization's website, www.cancer.org, or signing up for enrollment appointments in multiple cities across the state, starting Sept. 24 through Nov. 13, at www.cps3utah.org.

"By joining this study, people can literally help us save lives, giving future generations more time with families and friends, more memories, more celebrations and more birthdays," said Pam Higginson, vice president of the American Cancer Society's Great West Division. As the organization celebrates its own 100th year in operation, Higginson said it is hoping to make a contribution of "more birthdays" for the millions diagnosed with one of the world's most deadly diseases.

Signing up for the study requires a one-time in-person visit to read and sign a consent form, complete a survey and provide a waist measurement and a blood sample. Participants will also complete a more detailed survey at home and will continue to receive periodic follow-up surveys in the future that researchers will use to look for more clues to cancer's causes.

Many people struggle to know what might have caused their cancer, said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Alpa Patel. She said knowing what causes cancer can lead to better prevention.

Success of the study, however, depends on enrollees. The organization aims to enroll 300,000, requiring a long-term commitment from each. It is anticipated that participants will be contacted every two years for at least 20 years.

Men and women across a range of racial and ethnic groups are encouraged to apply, potentially helping researchers determine whether risk factors are different across various races and ethnicities.

Research thus far has indicated an increased lung cancer risk from cigarette smoking, as well as for heart cancer, which results from conditions that have larger waist sizes in common, Higginson said.

"Changes in lifestyle over the past several decades, as well as a better understanding of cancer, make this latest chapter in this lifesaving series of studies a critical part of continuing the progress we're seeing against the disease," she said.

About 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year and more than half a million Americans are projected to die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly one in every four deaths.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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