Long-term study looks at cancer factors

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Parker residents are among the subjects of a major cancer prevention study, the results of which could shed light on how environmental factors impact cancer rates.

The intent of CPS-3, a national study funded and managed by the American Cancer Society's Epidemiology Research Program, is to better understand the factors that cause or prevent cancer and use the results to find ways to “eliminate cancer as a major health concern for future generations,” according to the ACS website.

Jane Jachowicz, BSN RN CBPN-IC, the breast program coordinator at Parker Adventist Hospital, said researchers will gather information about lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors over a 20- to 30-year period and try to identify trends.

Jachowicz, the hospital’s representative to the ACS, offered to use Parker Adventist as an enrollment site last fall, and 153 people from the area signed up. Baseline tests began immediately with blood samples and waistline measurements, and surveys were filled out by the study volunteers. The research team will continue surveying participants about their habits through regular emails and consultations.

The results of the study could have far-reaching implications, much like CPS-1, which studied the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. The findings led to surgeon general warnings on tobacco products, not to mention heightened public awareness about the dangers of smoking.

The second study focused on the correlation between weight and nutrition and cancer. Jachowicz, whose sister was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago, is still participating in that study. She says it is often relatives or friends of cancer victims and survivors who sign up for long-term studies because they want to contribute to efforts to find a cure.

Thousands of people between the ages of 30 and 65 were recruited for CPS-3. Those with a personal history of cancer were excluded because the study authors are hoping to find preventive measures by seeing how cancer develops and specifically what types are found. Among the environmental exposures that could get special attention are air pollution, water and soil quality, and how those numbers are affected based on where people live. Dietary and exercise habits will also be closely monitored.

CPS-3 is a blind study and the participants know they will never receive individual results. They will receive annual newsletters with highlights of study results, and cumulative data will be released in medical journals once there are quantifiable changes in the numbers, Jachowicz said.

“The hope is that our population sees the benefit of being proactive with cancer,” she said. “It’s good to see that people are taking charge of their own health.”