Despite rain, cancer study has sunny forecast

112 Four Corners residents to be part of study for next 30 years

Inclement weather on July 13 didn’t discourage 112 Four Corners residents from enrolling in a long-term cancer study.

“We could have been rained out,” said Cheryl Schou, an American Cancer Society spokeswoman in Durango. “It was wet, cold and windy, but they hung in there.”

Schou was speaking about the overnight Relay for Life, the society’s annual fundraiser where enrollment in the 30-year study took place.

“There was a lot of interest from Cortez, Pagosa Springs and San Juan County, New Mexico,” Schou said. “But we had 60 to 70 interest cards from people who didn’t show up.”

Nationally, there were 100 Relays for Life, Schou said.

The national cancer study looks at the effect of diet, environment and lifestyle on cancer.

Participants have to be 30 to 65 years old, with no diagnosis ever of cancer. They filled out an extensive questionnaire, gave a blood sample and had their waists measured.

They will be followed wherever they go for 30 years through mail-in reports. The survey covers number of cases, types of cancer, incidence by state and deaths.

Schou said the Relay for Life, held at Fort Lewis College, attracts enough participants to make it a point of enrollment for the 30-year study.

All information gathered from participants is privileged. The data was sent to the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.

The national survey, began in 2009, is designated CPS-3 because it’s the society’s third major cancer-prevention study. Next year is the last enrollment period.

The first study, conducted from Oct. 1, 1959, to Feb. 15, 1960, looked at prospective mortality among 1 million adults. They were monitored through September 1972.

A second study focused on the influence of environmental and lifestyle factors, including smoking, on cancer. About 1.2 million adults in all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were enrolled in 1982.

The cause of 488,000 deaths of study participants from 1982 to 2006 has been documented.

Schou credited Dr. Nicole Pinkerton, a Durango gynecologist, with the success of this year’s enrollment.

It was a painstaking, technical and tedious job to make sure that enrollment requirements were followed to the letter, Schou said. Errors could jeopardize the entire effort, she said.

Pinkerton, who assembled a coordinating team, carried it off with aplomb, Schou said.

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