Landmark cancer prevention study holds enrollment in Aiken; Day 2 to come on Thursday
The City of Aiken on Tuesday took a huge step in making cancer a thing of the past – and all it took was a blood sample and a waist measurement.
Nearly 80 people enrolled in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3, a long-term study that examines the behavior, health habits, environments and genetics of more than 300,000 people nationwide over a period of 20 to 30 years in order to learn more about the causes and possible prevention of cancer.
The study is seeking 200 participants from the Aiken area, and Lisa Glass, community manager for the South Atlantic Division of the ACS, is confident that goal will be reached.
Glass and the ACS spent several hours on Monday at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center enrolling participants. Of the 82 appointments that were made to enroll on Monday, 76 came through.
The second enrollment will be Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Aiken Technical College, 2276 Jefferson Davis Highway, Graniteville.
“The survey was a little long, but the waist measurement was fine – as long as they didn’t tell me what it was,” Carol Mondschein, said with a laugh after enrolling on Tuesday.
To enroll, participants complete a questionnaire that takes about 30 minutes and asks participants a variety of questions on their medical history, medications, sun exposure, physical activity and exercise.
Participants then provide a blood sample and have their waists measured. The blood samples are frozen and are not touched by researchers unless a participant is diagnosed with cancer. After enrolling, participants are mailed a survey every few years to be completed and sent back.
Glass said the information is kept confidential, and that “by the time you leave, you become a bar code.”
“This is the first study we’ve done that has taken into account physical measurements,” she said of the study. “The previous studies have all been the surveys. They have shown that genetics and environmental factors and personal habits impact our health, and that’s why we want to study healthy people and habits that would, hopefully, prevent the person from ever getting cancer.”
Glass said that Aiken originally wasn’t considered as an enrollment site because of its proximity to Columbia and Augusta, which are hosting their own events.
She said Aiken enrollment has been successful because word has spread through the community not by advertising, but by grassroots efforts.
“It is so personal when cancer affects your family,” she said. “It does something to you, and you want to do whatever you can to help eliminate it and prevent other families or your children or grandchildren from ever getting a diagnosis.”
Such was the case with many who enrolled on Tuesday.
“I have had several family members die of cancer,” Sharon Mills said while completing her survey. “My father, his father, all of his siblings died of cancer.”
Mills, along with Kathy Harris, was “recruited” for the study by Deb Reynolds, who volunteers for ACS.
“Just last year, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” Harris said. “She’s doing well, so I’m really involved in cancer awareness because of that.”
Harris said getting people to enroll doesn’t take a lot of convincing.
“I was walking the track last night and she told me about it,” Harris said, nodding toward Reynolds. “I just convinced my husband this morning, and he signed up. I think it’s just something that people are generally interested in – they just need to be spoken to.”
Participants can register at Aiken Technical College on Thursday, but to secure a spot and reduce wait time, Glass encourages participants to register in advance online.
Anyone who could not enroll in Aiken will have other chances to do so.
Enrollment events will be held Nov. 2 to 13 in Murrells Inlet, Conway, Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, and Nov. 13 to 17 in Greenville.
Glass said additional enrollment will also take place later in Columbia and Charleston.
For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.cancer.org/Research/ResearchProgramsFunding/Epidemiology-CancerPreventionStudies/CancerPreventionStudy-3/index.