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ACS recruiting volunteers for cancer study

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Primerica employees Mary Smith and Ursula Mercer, right, discuss enrolling in the CPS-3 study with Cathy Longino, front left, and Kelly Flowers of the American Cancer Society on Tuesday morning in Duluth. ACS officials have set a goal of enrolling 5,000 metro Atlanta residents in the nationwide study to better understand lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Primerica employees Mary Smith and Ursula Mercer, right, discuss enrolling in the CPS-3 study with Cathy Longino, front left, and Kelly Flowers of the American Cancer Society on Tuesday morning in Duluth. ACS officials have set a goal of enrolling 5,000 metro Atlanta residents in the nationwide study to better understand lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer.

DULUTH -- Because Renee Carter has had the unique chance to be on both sides of cancer prevention work, she sees herself as a connection between a volunteer and a researcher.

About 20-odd years ago, Carter worked in research for the American Cancer Society and at the School of Public Health at Emory University. In those roles, she worked in the Epidemiology department collecting surveys as part of Cancer Prevention Study 2. Now, Carter is a programs and events coordinator at Primerica, and on Tuesday morning she gathered employees at her company to generate volunteers to be a part of the third such study.

"It's so odd that I'm the rah-rah girl now," Carter said. "But I had a really stuffy job for so many years,"

ACS is looking for men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. The ACS goal is to enroll 5,000 metro Atlanta residents and about 300,000 people across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. About 185,000 have already been recruited, said Alpa Patel, the strategic director of CPS-3.

The goal of the study is for researchers to better understand the lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer. The first two studies produced links between cigarettes and cancer, and obesity and diabetes and cancer.

Patel said the difference between the third generation study and the first two installments is researchers this time are taking a blood sample at the outset of enrollment.

"That will put us in a very strong position to look at the interplay between lifestyle and genetics," Patel said.

The blood sample would then offer researchers information about protein, hormones, genetics and nutrients, Patel said, along with surveyed answers about lifestyle and environment. Patel said researchers don't have a singular scientific hypothesis they're trying to answer.

Linda Cerjan, senior income manager at the ACS, said this study gives people an opportunity to participate in research and feel like they have contributed something to the fight against cancer.

Even though Primerica typically gives between $30,000 and $40,000 to the ACS each year, Carter said participating in CPS-3 gives people a chance contribute first hand.

"It is a study that lets them know where it might go," Carter said. "It's easy to donate, but then it's like, 'Where does my money go?'"

Respondents will sign a consent form and complete a comprehensive survey packet that asks for information on lifestyle, behavorial and other factors related to your health. Waist circumference will be measured and a small blood sample will be taken that's less than a typical blood donation.

Mary Smith, a Primerica employee who signed up for the study, said she understands the study may not specifically help her, but could help generations to come, like her children and grandchildren.

"Hopefully they will find something they can use, what we're doing now, trying to find a cure," she said.

Patel said that a common answer for why people agree to join the study is altruistic, usually in memory or in honor of a loved one, so that someone could be spared from hearing the words, "You have cancer."

Smith didn't mind the length of the study, which could be 20 or 30 years where participants respond to surveys and notify researchers of health events in their lives.

"That's a long time," Smith said. "As long as they can keep up with me, and I don't get extra rich and move overseas, they have me."

An ACS news release said the in-person enrollment process would take about an hour, and there will be periodic followup surveys for enrollees in the next few years.

For more metro Atlanta CPS-3 enrollment sites, dates and times or for more information on CPS-3, visit www.cps3atlanta.com, or call toll-free 1-888-604-5888.