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Groundbreaking Cancer Research Study Taking Place at Mount Nittany Medical Center

by on June 09, 2013 11:10 AM

An innovative and potentially trailblazing cancer research study occurring across the nation has made its way to State College.

Mount Nittany Medical Center is one of the enrollment centers for a Cancer Prevention Study known as CPS-3. Unlike most scientific investigations, working in the fields of medicine or biology is not required to participate in CPS-3.

The study, which according to its official website, aims to “create a world with less cancer… and more birthdays” attempts to track long-term lifestyle habits in an effort to better predict what causes cancer and advise people to avoid those dangerous life choices.

According to Jen Schweighauser, a health initiative representative with the American Cancer Society, the ultimate goal is to find 300,000 adults between the ages of 30-65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer.

Participants begin by completing an online survey that focuses on genetics, dietary habits, biological records, and cancer history within one’s family.

Questions can get pretty specific including “How many cups of fruits and vegetables do you eat a day?” and “What types of multi-vitamins do you take?”

While comprehensive, Schweighauser said that most individuals complete the survey in less than an hour, and that is the longest time commitment throughout the process.

Following the survey, research participants attend a short 20-30 minute appointment that involves completing a much shorter survey, having one’s waist measured, and having a phlebotomist take a blood sample.

With all of this data saved, people will fill out a follow-up survey every 2-3 years. This allows researchers to keep tabs on the variable aspects of the study including lifestyle choices and diet consumption.

Should a participant be diagnosed with cancer later in life, the ultimate goal, explained Schweighauser, is to be able to determine why this occurred so it can be prevented in future generations.

“It’s a real easy way to give back,” Schweighauser. “It doesn’t take up much time and should be incredibly beneficial 20-30 years down the road when we have a ton of data collected.”

While CPS-3 is just recently making waves in central Pennsylvania (appointments were also available at four additional Centre County locations), the study began back in 2006 in Washington D.C.

According to Schweighauser and the website, studies began as early as 1959 with CPS-1. That study found a link between smoking and cancer. CPS-2 followed in the early 1980s that focused on nutritional habits and second-hand smoking.

2013 is the final year of enrollment for CPS-3 so time is running out to be a subject in the study, but the hope is that it contributes to the greater good for years to come.

That’s how Elle Morgan sees it, at least. Morgan is the health writer and communications coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center. She spends most of her days writing healthcare and patient stories for the company magazine and website, but yesterday, she took advantage of the rare opportunity and registered for the CPS-3 study.

“I see it as an opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself,” Morgan said. Working here has definitely given me a bigger appreciation for these types of things.

“Research is needed to make these strides. Awareness and sensitivity to these health issues are really important. People can definitely have a big influence if they want to.”

While hard numbers are not yet finalized regarding exactly how many people have participated, both Schweighauser and Morgan have noticed plenty of interest and believe the convenience of filling out the surveys online will entice more people to participate.

CPS-1 and CPS-2 both uncovered beneficial findings, but Schweighauser said that one out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime.

The hope is that CPS-3 can eventually help to lower that ratio.

“Hopefully it is really successful, and there will be a CPS-4 one day,” said Schweighauser.

Click HERE to enroll in the study or to learn more about CPS-3.

Drew Balis is a Penn State graduate, freelance reporter and frequent contributor to
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