Many southern Utahns believe atomic testing heightened their risk of getting cancer. More than $1 million has been pledged to see if, with encouragement, they will volunteer for regular cancer screening.

Researchers are also studying whether early cancer detection will reduce deaths and whether cancer rates in the region exceed national levels--about which researchers have disagreed for years."Southern Utahns clearly have a different perception of their risks for cancer. What we are looking at is whether people actually avoid being screened because they think they're at high risk and don't want to know," said Dr. F. Ross Woolley, project director for the Community Cancer Detection Program.

Woolley, of the family and preventive medicine department at the University of Utah, said investigators will examine how residents with fatalistic perspectives react to community education about the benefits of early detection.

The detection project uses federal funds to reimburse residents who are screened for cancer as part of their physical examinations.

Project directors have asked health care providers in Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Kane and Washington counties in Utah, as well as some in northern Arizona and a portion of eastern Nevada, to conduct the examinations. Residents of those areas are commonly referred to the Dixie Medical Center in St. George for their medical needs. Most people will receive about a $20 reimbursement.

"We pay a relatively little amount compared to the overall examination cost, so we hope people will integrate screening with their regularly scheduled physical examinations," Woolley said.

The project has come about through the cooperative efforts of the National Cancer Institute, the University of Utah and Intermountain Health Care, which owns and operates Dixie Medical Center.