CUMBERLAND — The American Cancer Society held a meeting at the Western Maryland Health System’s auditorium Wednesday night to kick off Allegany County’s involvement in the third Cancer Prevention Study that will be taking place across the country.
The ACS is seeking anyone from the ages of 30 to 65 with no previous cancer diagnosis who can commit to filling out surveys about every two years. The new study aims to expand the knowledge of the possible causes of cancer. Similar studies that have been done since the 1950s have proven links between smoking and secondhand smoke to lung cancer.
The objective of the meeting was to inform those who attended of how they could help volunteer in roles the ACS refers to as champions. Champions spread awareness about the study, answer questions they feel comfortable answering about the study, and provide information on how a person can participate in the study. Both ACS and WMHS representatives insisted that champions are in no way to coerce someone into participating.
The volunteer role of champions is important to the ACS for getting participants to sign up. A survey cited by Julie Hardy, director of the WMHS Schwab Family Cancer Center, showed that almost 30 percent of current participants decided to take part in the study after talking with a volunteer. “Person-to-person communication is the most effective for getting participants to join,” Hardy said.
The study will involve drawing and freezing a vial of blood and a waist circumference measurement from participants and then keeping track of the participants through follow-up surveys over the course of 20 to 30 years. Should a participant be diagnosed with cancer during that period, another blood sample will be taken and compared to the first and data from the surveys will be analyzed. It is the hope of the medical community that the data collected will lead to a new understanding of the causes of cancer and how to prevent them.
Dr. George Garrow, senior vice president and chief medical officer for WMHS, said of the importance of these studies, “Everyone knows that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. Few realize that it took three years, 22,000 volunteers and 188,000 study participants to prove it.”
It is estimated that in 2012 there were 518 cases of cancer in Allegany County with 198 deaths.
The participant goal in this study is 300,000 people nationally and it will focus on a diverse population. The ACS is hoping to get 4,900 in Maryland with 250 of those being from Allegany County. Although the interest is in Allegany County, the ACS will accept people from the local West Virginia communities. “This is really important, not only for Maryland but for West Virginia as well,” said Beth Garbolino, area executive director for the ACS.
At the time of Wednesday’s meeting, the national goal was nearly met, with 250,000 participants signed on, and 60 people in Allegany County had signed up to be champions.
The three host sites where the sampling will occur are at WMHS, Frostburg State University and the McCoole Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Anyone interested in participating in the study or who would like to volunteer as a champion should visit http://www.CPS3AlleganyCounty.org or call 888-604-5888. After a 30-minute survey, the participant can schedule an appointment between Sept. 10 and 14. Nationally, all samples will be gathered by the end of December.