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Cancer study issues special call for African Americans in Memphis

A massive study is underway to develop ways to prevent cancer, and Americans from all ethnic groups are being asked to participate – and help save lives. A massive study is underway to develop ways to prevent cancer, and Americans from all ethnic groups are being asked to participate – and help save lives.

The study by the American Cancer Society aims to sign up 500,000 people and track their health histories over 20 years. The results will help to understand what may cause cancer – and how to prevent it.

The study especially needs African Americans, who have been historically reluctant to participate in studies.  

“What a great thing to be involved with, actually helping to save lives!” said Memphian Patti Willard, an American Cancer Society volunteer. Willard’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer while participating in a study of osteoporosis. Willard then participated herself in the “Sister Study” for women whose sisters had breast cancer.

My family firmly believes in research studies,” she said.  “Education is the key to surviving.”

Here’s the premise: If more African Americans participated in the studies, more information about African Americans would be gained to improve their health and discover new ways to prevent cancer.

“If a particular population is not in your study, you cannot study that population,” said Alpa Patel, director of the study. “Much of what we know (about cancer) is based on studies that are largely comprised of Caucasians.”

The study aims to enroll at least 10 percent – 50,000 – African Americans. So far, the number is only 3.5 percent, Patel said.

“There is a general mistrust in the African-American community toward biomedical research and therefore a fair amount of resistance and willingness to participate,” she said.  

The ACS is trying to overcome that skepticism by being upfront about what they want to know, emphasizing that the study is only interested in tracking what African Americans do in their daily lives and then using that information to help determine risks of cancer.

“We simply ask folks to tell us what they already do,” she said.

Enrollment opportunities will be taking place in the coming months all over the country, including Tennessee. For more information, including a list of enrollment sites, visit www.cancer.org/cps3.

To be eligible to enroll in the study, called CPS-3, men and women should:

• Be between 30 and 65 years old. According to the U.S. Census, 177,210 African Americans lived in Shelby County in 2000, the most recent figures available.

• Have no personal history of cancer (not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer).

• Be willing to complete follow-up questionnaires over a period of several years.

• Enrollment typically involves:

• Reading and signing an informed consent form.

• Completing a survey.

• Providing some physical measurements, such as waist size, weight, height, blood pressure and heart rate.

• Providing a small blood sample, similar to that taken during a doctor’s visit.

People who are enrolled will receive periodic follow-up surveys that will ask for information on lifestyle, behavior and other factors related to health. Participants will also receive annual newsletters about ongoing research. There is no cost to participate, and participants will not be paid.

(Teresa Janes, Memphis correspondent for the Ozioma News Service, contributed to this story.)

(For more information, visit: http://www.oziomanews.org)

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