Twin Ports residents needed for major cancer study

Linda Wiig saw both of her parents die of cancer. Now she's passionate about finding a cure for the disease that kills half a million Americans every year.

Linda Wiig saw both of her parents die of cancer. Now she's passionate about finding a cure for the disease that kills half a million Americans every year.

That's why she's encouraging local residents to take part in a new study being conducted by the American Cancer Society.

"It's important to me to better understand what causes cancer and how it can be better prevented," said Wiig, who is the parish nurse at First United Methodist Church. "It's certainly not anything too burdensome for anyone to do, and it's very important."

Wiig said she hopes younger people will sign up for the study so environmental issues affecting younger people can be better studied.

"Environmental issues will hopefully be a big bonus and benefit to this study (compared to the findings of the previous studies)," she said. "I want to find out what we can be doing environmentally."


The American Cancer Society is asking hundreds of thousands of Americans, including some right here in the Northland, to participate in a study for the next 20 or 30 years.

But the commitment isn't as big as it might sound. Participants are being recruited as part of the organization's third generation-study, which asks participants to fill out a short survey every two or three years in an effort to determine causes of cancer and prevention techniques.

"Every generation we do a cancer-prevention study and the purpose is to learn new relevant factors about cancer, the genetic or physical or environmental factors that may increase the risk or prevent cancer," said Marjorie Johnson, community partnerships specialist for the American Cancer Society in Duluth.

The organization's previous Cancer Prevention Studies, referred to as CPS-I and CPS-II, began in 1959 and 1982, respectively. CPS-II is still ongoing at this point.

Johnson said another generational study is necessary at this point due to environmental differences between each generation.

"The population is different -- the way we work, the way we eat, our activity level," she said. "Our grandparents were much more physically active than we are."

The goal is to include at least 500 people in the Duluth area, although up to 1,200 people could be accommodated, Johnson said. Men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer (not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer) are eligible to participate.

Each potential participant needs to schedule an appointment to give a blood sample, have a waist measurement taken and sign a consent form. Those interested can visit to schedule an appointment.


Appointments are being scheduled for the week of April 2-6 at eight locations in the area: U.S. Bank, First Covenant Church, Peace in Christ Lutheran Church, St. Michael's Catholic Church, Asbury United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church, Superior Public Library and the Mariner Mall.

Johnson said the previous studies have been successful, linking smoking to increased cancer risk in the 1950s and later showing a relationship between the use of aspirin and a decreased risk of colon cancer.

"It's a way of giving back to the community, a way of protecting the next generation from cancer," she said. "Medical knowledge affects lives."

While the American Cancer Society doesn't lobby legislators, the organization tends to shape public policy, Johnson said. Cigarettes are a prime example of the study's effects, she said.

"The study is part of why there are warning labels on cigarette packages and we hear warnings about secondhand smoke and why you no longer see Joe Camel on TV."

Participants in the study will be asked to complete an online survey when they first qualify. After that, surveys will be sent every few years asking for medical updates. With more than 300,000 people expected to participate nationwide, the researchers can expect thousands of participants to develop cancer at some time, Johnson said.

"We know statistically that some will develop cancer," she said. "If they do, we ask that we gain access to their medical record. There's no pressure, 'no' is an acceptable answer. But their medical records can expose what risk factors they might have had."

Most importantly, Johnson said, the study requires little work by participants.


"It's a very small commitment, but it has a very big reward."

For more information, visit the website , or call toll-free 1-888-604-5888.

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