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Madison YMCA Plays Part in 'Historic' Cancer Study

American Cancer Society 'cancer prevention study 3' to monitor 300,000 volunteers over several decades.

The mayor of Madison called out his fellow regional leaders Tuesday. But, don't expect a political bloodbath.

Bob Conley, also as vice president of operations for the Madison Area YMCA, was one of several speakers at a press conference at Morristown Medical Center announcing a new cancer prevention study, which calls for volunteers between ages 30 and 65 to be monitored over the next several decades.

That study, CPS-3, will collect blood samples from volunteers who have never been diagnosed with cancer and "help researchers better understand the lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer," according to an American Cancer Society statement, which also calls the campaign a "historic cancer research effort."

"I challenge all the mayors in the community to reach out," Conley said. "The competition is on."

Study organizers will need all the publicity they can get, as 300,000 volunteers are sought nationwide. Several area organizations including Madison YMCA, the Greater Morristown YMCA and Realogy also have signed up as volunteer sign-up locations for northwest New Jersey, to be held between Dec. 11 and 15.

"It's a no-brainer. It's the right thing to do," Realogy representative David Weaving said. "It's something that affects all of us."

Weaving isn't just saying that. His wife is a three-time cancer survivor, most recently with breast cancer in 2006.

While her long-term prognosis is very good, not everyone is so fortunate.

Conley noted his mother's death 35 years ago to cancer. "We have come a long way," he said. Since then, cancer prevention studies one and two have drawn correlations of smoking and obesity to cancer, respectively, several presenters noted. Such conclusions may be commonplace now, but once upon a time were not so certain.

To enroll in the study, individuals will visit one of the enrollment locations and asked to read and sign an "informed consent form," complete a survey, have their waist circumference measured and give a small blood sample. The process is expected to take about 30 minutes. Survey packets will be completed at home asking questions about lifestyle, behavior and other health factors, and follow-up surveys will be sent periodically over the course of 20 to 30 years.

If several decades seems like a large commitment, talk to cancer survivors like Jane Rubin, Atlantic Health's director of neuroscience, who received her first breast cancer diagnosis 13 years ago.

"I am thrilled every time I see a new study come our way," she said. "In my case, I don't think I would be here ... if not for all the research."

As part of Tuesday's presentation, Rubin showed a video of the last three years—since her last cancer diagnosis—and what has taken place in her life, including graduations, family vacations, marriages and births.

"As you can see, life goes on," said Sue Bowens, marketing director of the Greater Morristown YMCA. "And, we need life to go on."

"It's a bold initiative," said U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Assembly Anthony Bucco Jr. at the press conference. "With the highly diverse population of New Jersey, this is an excellent place to conduct this study."

Brian Slomovitz, director of oncology research for Atlantic Health, called his organization's participation in the nationwide study "a great event for us and our community.

"It's frustrating when we see a cancer patient come in and we do not have a treatment for them," he said. "The only way is to prevent cancer."

While strides have continued to be made over the years, questions have been answered, lives saved, even today, "it's not 'do you know anyone with cancer,' it's 'who do you know with cancer,'" Conley said. "We can change that."

For more information about the Cancer Prevention Study-3, click here.

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