Cancer prevention study on the Suncoast

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Suncoast residents are contributing information over time that will impact the way we prevent, and treat cancer. A study of this magnitude only comes about every thirty  years, and local hospitals are opening their doors.

29-year-old Traci Willingham has a high family history of cancer.  She lost her mother a couple of years ago and said anything she can do to prevent cancer from being in further generations is why she's participation in this Nationwide study.

This study, the third of its kind, follows participants over a 30-year period.  The first one, conducted in the 1950s, was ground-breaking, says Grace Carlson, Chair of the Sarasota chapter of the American Cancer Society. "We learned that there was a correlation between tobacco and cancer and that's why we started putting the warning on cigarettes," explained Carlson.

These findings also raised awareness that smoking related cancer is preventable.

The study from the 1980s focused on epidemiology, or the study of disease in human populations. "It considers your genetic history, whether you live in an urban or rural environment, how much you exercise, what type of food you eat, and, what your alcohol consumption is," she explained.

This is what was learned through this second study, said Carlson. "There's a correlation between obesity and cancer, so we so we understand that we need to eat right and exercise more often and that's another way that we can prevent cancer."

Although people in that study are beginning to age out, there will be a new group of people who will contribute findings, because now additional new tests are being implemented, says Willingham. "It is the first American Cancer Society cancer prevention study that took blood, so it's the first study that's linking DNA to the development of cancer."

Participants who develop cancer in the next thirty years will notify ACS who will check their DNA for answers.

Carlson, who lost her father to Melanoma, said reasons to participate vary, but there is one common bond.  "Cancer has affected all of us, we don't want anybody we care about to hear the words you've got cancer this is your chance to make those words go away."

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