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Area residents are encouraged to participate in the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study-3, a nationwide study being conducted in St. Marys on Sept. 11 and 12 at the Sacred Heart Parish Center on Center Street.
"This is the first time a national study has ever come to Elk County, that's why we'd like to take full advantage of it. With the high rate of cancer in the Elk County area, this is something we should grasp here as a county and see if there are some indicators that the ACS can use to help fight cancer and prevent it," said Shane Launer, health initiatives representative of the ACS' East Central Division, Inc. based in Bradford.
The goal of the study is that the research today may lead to a cancer-free tomorrow by helping researchers better understand the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that cause or prevent cancer, which will ultimately save lives and ultimately eliminate cancer as a major health concern.
In order to be eligible to participate in the study, volunteers must be between 30 and 65 years old, never been diagnosed with cancer and willing to make a commitment to participate in a 20-year study by completing periodic follow-up surveys at home.
Volunteers may sign up the day before the study; however, appointment time slots scheduled every 30 minutes are quickly filling up. The study is taking place from noon-6 p.m. on Sept. 11 and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sept. 12. Enrollment may be done online at www.clearfieldelkcps.org or calling 1-888-604-5888. Additional information about the study may be obtained online at www.cancer.org/cps3.
"This study is going to cover a wide range and look at all indicators. It's not focusing on one area. It's looking at everything," Launer said.
If volunteers are unable to participate during the St. Marys dates, they may sign up for the study in Clearfield scheduled for Sept. 13 from noon-6 p.m and Sept. 14 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. at 440 Front Place.
According to Launer, there are 138 volunteers who have signed up for the study, surpassing their goal of 100. A maximum of 163 volunteers is eligible to participate.
Enrollment is a two-step process. After scheduling an appointment, volunteers will receive confirmation with instructions on how to complete the first, most comprehensive survey which must be completed online, by phone or in person at an ACS office prior to a volunteer's appointment time. Launer said the survey should take about 45 minutes and can be done a little at a time instead of all at once. It is divided into 12 sections and includes an entire health history of volunteers. If unable to complete the survey online, a paper version is available at appointments, which will add about 30 to 45 minutes to the process.
On the day of the study, volunteers should set aside 30 minutes during which time staff will take a waist circumference measurement and a small vial of blood, as well as fill out a consent form and brief survey. Blood samples will be frozen after being drawn by a certified, trained phlebotomist. If within the next 20 years a volunteer is diagnosed with cancer, their blood will be studied for any indicators of cancer.
Once involved in the study, volunteers will receive annual newsletters updating them on the status of the study, the number of participants and anything discovered in it.
"With this survey we don't want to lose touch with you. We want to make sure you're committed for 20 years," Launer said. "We're trying to help our children and grandchildren with this study."
ACS's Epidemiology Research Program is recruiting 500,000 adults across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for the study, the fourth of its kind.
The ACS plans to enroll volunteers in each of its divisions within the next five years; however, the study will not be conducted in every state. This decision was based on various factors including quality of state cancer registries, population density, and proximity of the study laboratory partner facilities. The CPS-3 study includes a total of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.