Finding a Cancer Cure

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EUGENE, Ore. — Right now, the American Cancer Society is recruiting participants for its third major cancer study.

The organization has made great strides from previous research, but more study is needed to better understand what’s causing cancer rates to rise.

The end of June is a busy time at the American Cancer Society’s Eugene branch; posters, T-shirts and sign-up sheets for the Relay for Life adorn the hallways. Pat Cookson and her team are coordinating 13 events, including Eugene’s Relay for Life, which is now the sixth-largest Relay for Life in the world.

In the midst of all this, Cookson is thrilled to tackle a milestone project: getting people to sign up for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study 3, also known as CPS-3. Participants are usually recruited from large cities. This is the first time the organization has reached out to the Eugene-Springfield area.

“The opportunity for people in our community to be involved in a project of this magnitude in their own community is really, I think, an opportunity not to pass up,” says Cookson.

CPS-3 started in 2007 with the goal of studying 300,000 participants to learn more about cancer and why we are seeing such alarming rates. One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in his or her lifetime, and while there’s no cure, researchers have made strides. The first study, CPS-1, focused on smoking; it tracked participants to prove that smoking didn’t cause cancer. But the research proved otherwise and later became the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report.

In 1982, the American Cancer Society launched CPS-2, studying 1.2 million volunteers. That study, which is ongoing, looks for the links in what causes cancer. Long-term studies showed a link between diabetes and cancers of the pancreas and colon. Studies also show a connection between physical activity and lower risk of certain cancers.

“We need to build on the study,” says Cookson. “Basically, how we choose to live our lives, along with some environmental facotrs, and then we also want to look at genetics.”

CPS-3 comes 25 years after the second study, and times have changed dramatically. Cell phones have replaced land lines, more people are dining out, kids spend less time on physical activity, and obesity rates have skyrocketed. Are these factors affecting cancer rates?

This is the final year to enroll in CPS-3. The study is open to anyone between the ages of 30 and 65 who has not been diagnosed with cancer and is willing to commit to a long-term study over the next 20 to 30 years. The initial sign-up requires a blood-draw; after that, it’s just filling out a questionnaire every couple of years.

“If you’re diagnosed with cancer, we want to go back and see what we can learn,” says Cookson.

The American Cancer Society is currently enrolling participants. You can sign up online at the organization’s website.

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