Join the American Cancer Society's 3rd generation Cancer Prevention Study

When I was a little girl, cancer scared me.  My grandfather had died of cancer.  The word "cancer" was like a death sentence to me.  Thirty years later, we've made such great strides in the fight against cancer.  Although I still know way too many people who have lost the fight against the Big C, I know just as many people who have won.  Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the American Cancer Society, we know more about cancer that we ever did -- how to find it, how to treat it, how to beat it, how to prevent it.

But the fight's not over yet, and it will take more than dedicated scientists to win it.  It takes the efforts, small and large, of people like you and me. The wonderful Susan Niebur once wrote, "There are as many ways to fight cancer as there are types of cancer".  Ever the scientist, Susan summarized how you can help into 4 categories:  Donate.  Educate. Advocate. Volunteer. I love these categories because they pinpoint exactly what it is you can give:  Money.  Influence.  Passion.  And your time.

Between now and December, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is giving everyone a unique opportunity to volunteer -- by enrolling in their latest nationwide long-term research effort, the Cancer Research Study-3 (CPS-3). CPS-3 is a long-term study that seeks to better understand the factors (lifestyle, environmental, genetic) that cause or prevent cancer and ultimately help eliminate cancer as a major health concern for future generations.  This is the third such study that the ACS has conducted (hence the "3"); the first was started in 1952 and the second in 1982.  The results of such studies can be significant: CPS-1 provided researchers with the first evidence of the links between smoking and lung cancer, while CPS-2 demonstrated the impact of hormones, physical activity and diet on cancer risk.  Who knows what insights this latest study could provide?!

The CPS-3 study aims to enroll at least 300,000 adults from various racial and ethnic backgrounds from across the US by the end of 2013.  They already have 250,000 enrolled, but they need our help to recruit the last 50,000.  That's where you come in!  Here's how you can help:

1) If you're between the ages of 30 and 65 with no personal history of cancer, sign up for an initial appointment at various community centers and health centers across the country.

2) Read and sign an informed consent form (note: They will ask for the last 4 digits of your social security number, mainly to access health registries like the national death index just in case you stop participating in the study without informing them and they need to find you to confirm.  You actually do not need to enter it in order to continue, but 99.1 % of respondents do enter it).

3) Complete an online or paper survey about your lifestyle, physical traits, medical history and other factors related to your health. It will take approximately 45 minutes, and even if you complete the survey online, you don't have to complete it in one sitting.

4)  At your appointment, your waist circumference will be taken and a small amount of blood will be taken.  Like the survey, your blood sample will be used for research purposes only and all your information will remain confidential.

5)  Over the next 20 years, every 2 or 3 years, complete follow-up surveys to update your information.  These surveys will last anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour.

Enrollment is going on nationwide; use the CPS-3 location search tool to find a site by state or zip code.  If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can head to a special CPS-3 site for the Bay Area, which lists enrollment sites by county.  The Bay Area is of particular interest because of its rich ethnic diversity; their goal is to get 4000 people to enroll, the largest in the nation!  Right now only 1400 have signed up for an appointment, so please consider signing up, and tell everyone you know.

As soon as I heard about the study, I knew I wanted to sign up.  I have an appointment in about a month, and because only a quarter or participants at this point are men, I've gotten Alfie to sign up too.  Bay Area signups will go on through August 2013.  As Nike says, JUST DO IT!  You can revoke consent and withdraw from the study at any time -- although few do.  Ninety percent of the participants from the 1982 study still return their questionnaires.  And why not?  It's not a huge time commitment, and you get the chance to be a part of something big. Something that  Something that could help your children, grandchildren and other loved ones in the future.

Disclosure: My participation in the ACS's awareness campaign for CPS-3 is compensated; however, my participation in the study, and my husband's participation, are entirely voluntary. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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