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Published in CenterView on January 30, 2012

New population study seeks to reveal underlying causes of cancer

By Jack Mazurak

Beating cancer takes an army. It's why the American Cancer Society is organizing a massive population study that will follow the lives and health of up to a half-million U.S. and Puerto Rico residents for the coming decades.

By partnering with UMMC, the society is rolling out the Cancer Prevention Study-3, known as CPS-3, to people in central Mississippi.

By compiling data over time, researchers hope to decipher what factors - such as obesity, fitness level, socioeconomic position, blood pressure, diet, race, gender and neighborhood - and combinations of factors put people at risk for cancer.

"Many individuals diagnosed with cancer struggle to answer the question, 'What caused my cancer?' In many cases, we don't know the answer," said the ACS' Dr. Alpa V. Patel, CPS-3 principal investigator.

"CPS-3 will help us better understand what factors cause cancer, and once we know that, we can be better equipped to prevent cancer. CPS-3 holds the best hope of identifying new and emerging cancer risks, and we can only do this if members of the community are willing to become involved."

Medical Center family can help in two ways.

First, organizers need at least 100 people to champion local recruitment. A champion's job is to spread the word. They will talk to colleagues, family, church members and friends about the study's importance and how to help. They will receive orientation the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 8 during a kickoff event at the Jackson Medical Mall.

Second, they can volunteer to enroll in the CPS-3 and sign up themselves. Volunteers need to be 30-65 years old and never have had cancer. More information and enrollment forms are available at www.cps3jackson.org.

During in-person enrollment at various UMMC locations March 27-30, volunteers will be asked to read and sign a consent form; complete a survey packet on lifestyle, behavioral and other health information; have a waist measurement taken; and give a small blood sample.

ACS will send periodic follow-up surveys every few years and annual newsletters with study updates and results. In-person enrollment takes about an hour.

Dr. Roy Duhe, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, joined the study as the CPS-3 Jackson lead champion.

"It is so important for Mississippi to be a part of this study," said Duhe, a longtime cancer researcher and UMMC Cancer Institute associate director for cancer education.

Mississippi leads the nation in mortality rates of many types of cancers, and this is a pattern that occurs with highly preventable cancers like colorectal, cervical and lung cancers.

"Mississippians and African-Americans have traditionally been underrepresented in population studies. As an issue of pride, we'd like to make a positive difference in cancer rates in this state," he said.

Duhe, who holds a joint appointment as a professor of radiation oncology, got involved with the American Cancer Society when he started working at the Medical Center 12 years ago.

"ACS, for many years, has been the ideal partner for the Medical Center, because we have many of the same goals," he said. "Even though I'm a big fan of what we can do in the laboratory, I'm a big proponent of what we can do in the community. Enrolling in CPS-3 can help make a difference. It will help people understand that lifestyle influences the incidence of cancer and that lifestyle can keep a diagnosis of cancer from being a cause of death."

CPS-3 will continue a series of American Cancer Society studies that began in the 1950s. Those studies have involved millions of volunteer participants and produced milestone findings - including evidence linking smoking to cancer deaths - that have led to public policy changes.

Patel said thousands of volunteer participants already have committed to taking an hour or so every few years to fill out a survey, which can potentially help save someone from being diagnosed with cancer in the future.

"We're looking for more like-minded individuals in Jackson to join this effort that we know will save lives and improve the outlook for future generations," said Patel.

For more information or to learn how to become involved with CPS-3, call 1-888-604-5888, e-mail cps3@cancer.org or visit cancer.org/cps3.

CPS-3 kicks off

The American Cancer Society Metro Jackson Office is recruiting volunteers willing to serve as Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) champions. Volunteer orientation is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center, with a press conference to follow at 10:15 a.m. The orientation will provide information needed to help educate the community about CPS-3.