American Cancer Society seeking volunteers for long-term study

Jennifer HarrisonJennifer Harrison is encouraging friends, family members and co-workers she leaned on for support after being diagnosed with cancer to wage a battle of their own against the disease.

The 42-year-old Springfield woman, a survivor of breast cancer, hopes she can motivate local residents to take part in a nationwide study tracking cancer and other aspects of health in the general population.

“We definitely want to get as many people to enroll as possible,” said Harrison.

Harrison is part of a cadre of volunteers recruited by the American Cancer Society to promote Cancer Prevention Study-3, which began in 2008 and is on track to enroll 300,000 people nationwide by the end of 2013.

The $25 million study will follow participants over the next 20 to 30 years and help scientists understand more about the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer, according to Elizabeth Jablonski, director of research for the cancer society’s Illinois division.

“It’s an opportunity to participate in cancer prevention for future generations,” she said. “This is the closest a lot of people will get to cancer research.”

The study is accepting people between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer, not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer. Participants must fill out a detailed form, then spend 20 to 25 minutes at an enrollment event at which a blood sample and waist measurement are taken.

Every two or three years after that, participants will receive shorter surveys to complete.

The detailed form, which can be completed online before the enrollment visit, contains questions about medications the participant is taking, their family history of cancer, lifestyle and other behaviors. All of the data are kept confidential, Jablonski said.

Participants don’t receive any reports on their own blood sample, but they do receive annual newsletters about knowledge gained throughout the course of the study.

Appointments for one of seven Springfield-area enrollment events in May can be made online at http://www.cps3illinois.org, or by calling (888) 604-5888. More information is available at www.cancer.org/cps3.

People who make appointments online gain access to the enrollment form at the same time. Walk-ins are welcome.

Diversity sought

Study organizers hope to enroll 6,500 people statewide and at least 750 in the Springfield area.

The cancer society previously enrolled people in the study through Relay for Life events, but found that enrollees tended to be  white women, Jablonski said. The organization is trying to increase the level of diversity, she said.

State Rep. Marcus Evans Jr., D-Chicago, is using his status as a black man and cancer survivor to encourage minorities to join the study.

Evans, 28, underwent surgery and chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma after being diagnosed in 2006.

He now volunteers for the cancer society, and CPS-3 is a major focus of his talks to community groups, he said.

“This research is going to save someone’s life 10 or 20 years from now,” he said.

For future generations

Earlier studies by the cancer society have broken new ground.

The Hammond and Horn study in the early 1950s, and Cancer Prevention Study-1, which took place from 1959 to 1972 and involved 1 million people, were among the first major studies to document higher rates of lung cancer-related deaths among smokers.

The studies also confirmed links between second-hand smoke and both lung cancer and heart disease, Jablonski said.

Cancer Prevention Study-2, which enrolled 1.2 million people, began in 1982 and is still going on. It was the first large study of to document how excess weight and obesity shorten life spans and increase a person’s risk of dying from cancer.

Harrison said she was diagnosed two years ago with an aggressive form of breast cancer on her right side that had spread to some lymph nodes.

She decided to have both breasts removed as a precautionary measure. Chemotherapy treatments resulted in her losing all of her hair, and what used to be straight, medium-brown hair has grown back curly.

Harrison said CPS-3 may lead to scientific discoveries that make cancer less of a worry for her and husband Jim’s 7-year-old daughter, Ella.

“I want to find a cure or something that prevents cancer before my daughter becomes an adult, or for her kids,” Harrison said.

Dean Olsen can be reached at 788-1543. Follow him attwitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.

***

Enrollment in Cancer Prevention Study-3

*Noon to 4:30 p.m. May 1 in Room A1 of the Stratton Office Building, 401 S. Spring St.

*9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. May 14 at Lake Level Conference Rooms A, B and C at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois State Fairgrounds.

*1:30 to 5 p.m. May 15 and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 17 in Robbins Woerner Conference Center at the Simmons Cancer Institute, 315 W. Carpenter St.

*2:30 to 6 p.m. May 16 in the lobby of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, 2833 South Grand Ave. E.

*4 to 7:30 p.m. May 21 in the high school cafeteria at Taylorville High School, 815 W. Springfield Road, Taylorville.

*2 to 5:30 p.m. May 22 in the lobby of Kerasotes YMCA, 4550 W. Iles Ave.

American Cancer Society officials are holding a kickoff event for people who may want to volunteer to promote Cancer Prevention Study-3. The event will begin at 6 p.m. March 26 at the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, 315 W. Carpenter St.

Volunteers who want to attend are asked to inform the cancer society by March 22 and contact Stephen Hunt at 523-4503, ext. 3, or stephen.hunt@cancer.org.

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