Cancer study ready to launch

American Cancer Society needs thousands of local volunteers
Alpa V. Patel, PhD

Helping cancer research is about a lot more than donating money. The Atlanta-based American Cancer Society is in the final stages of the enrollment drive for its third Cancer Prevention Study, CPS-3. The call is out for up to 5,000 metro area men and women 30-65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. The purpose of the study is to better understand the lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that affect a person’s risk of developing or dying of cancer, says Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., CPS-3 principal investigator.

What does a volunteer do?
You’ll go to an in-person appointment that’s 20-30 minutes long. You’ll give consent, complete a brief survey, have your waist circumference measured, and a small blood sample done. The second part is done from home. It’s a comprehensive lifestyle survey covering things like occupation, family, and personal history of different diseases. In its entirety, the initial enrollment will take somewhere between an hour and hour and a half.

What’s the long-term commitment?
Every 2-3 years we’ll send you a survey. It might be new information. It might ask about diet or new types of medication. It will be to update information about you through these surveys. The study will go for at least the next 20 years. Last year was the 30th anniversary of following the CPS-2 population. But it doesn’t take 20 years to produce finding from the study.

What do you hope to find?
These are observational studies. We’re not asking you to change anything about what you do or how you live. We’re asking you to share information about what you do and how you live. So we can see the effect of lifestyle. The first study followed 188,000 men only, specifically asking very, very detailed information about smoking patterns. We were able to show, for the first time, that smoking dramatically increased developing and dying from lung cancer.

What will be the focus this time?
We will definitely have a substantial focus on the role of body weight and cancer. But we will be poised to look at a broad spectrum of risk factors. The cancer prevention studies have been paramount in the tobacco story. We’ll continue to do a lot of work with tobacco. The CPS-2 study was the first to demonstrate the connection between obesity and about a dozen different types of cancer. And we’ll also look at new factors. For me, my particular area of interest is energy balance: How sedentary lifestyle affects cancer risk. That has changed so much from the last generation to his one. We are far more dependent on our cars and desk jobs dominate the workplace. What does this change in our lifestyle mean in terms of our overall health?

Why should people get involved?
It’s pretty simple. This is one generation paying it forward to the next. Think about your kids. Think about your grandkids. Think about the possibility of them growing up in a world without cancer. This is a small action anyone can take helping them realize that vision.

To volunteer, visit or call toll-free 1-888-604-5888.