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It is everyday knowledge now. Smoking increases the chance of developing lung cancer. Most people also know that there is a direct link between obesity and cancer.

The reason we all know this is because of two decades-long studies conducted between the 1960s and into the 1980s by the American Cancer Society — Cancer Prevention Study I and Cancer Prevention II.

How to participate

The American Cancer Society will hold two enrollment events in Southern Maryland.

One will be March 19 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Jaycees center at 3090 Crain Highway in Waldorf.

The second will be held March 20 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Bel Alton High School Community Development Center at 9501 Crain Highway in Bel Alton.

Study participants must be between 30 and 65; have never been diagnosed with cancer, excluding basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer; and be willing to commit to the study by completing surveys periodically for the next 20 to 30 years.

To schedule an enrollment appointment, go to CPS3charlescounty.org. For more information, go to cancer.org/cps3 or call 888-604-5888.

“Huge,” said Robert Paschen, in describing the impact of the studies’ findings. Paschen is a regional director for marketing communication for the American Cancer Society.

“CPS-II was done in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and they’re still using that data.”

And the American Cancer Society is trying to add to that store of data about what correlates with developing cancer by conducting a third longitudinal study, CPS-3. “We want to beat this thing,” Paschen said. “We’re hoping to eradicate cancer.”

And Southern Maryland residents are being offered the opportunity to participate.

Since 2006, the American Cancer Society has been signing people up for this third study. Opportunities to sign up have been available at the St. Mary’s County and Calvert County Relay For Life events, for instance, over the past couple of years. Right now, St. Mary’s County has signed up the most participants for the study in the tri-county area, with 337 people in the study. Calvert County comes in a close second with 310 participants.

And while the American Cancer Society sees Relay For Life participants as some of its biggest champions, the society is now reaching out to the general community to sign up for the study. The hope is to sign up between 300,000 and 500,000 participants. Even after seeking participants since 2006 across the nation, however, the society only has 180,000 people on its rolls.

Back in January, representatives from the American Cancer Society gathered with members of the community at the Jaycees center in Waldorf to introduce CPS-3 and urge citizens in the region to participate.

To enroll in CPS-3, perople between 30 and 65 sign up online and then go to the enrollment location, where they will be asked to read and sign an informed consent form, complete a brief survey, have their waist circumference measured and give a small blood sample. The in-person enrollment process takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

At home, participants will complete a survey that asks for information on lifestyle, behavioral and other factors related to their health. The society will then continue to send periodic follow-up surveys every few years.

“It’s completely anonymous,” Paschen said.

At the January event, Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) emphasized the importance of the event and the board’s plan to show its support for cancer research, along with its significance in his personal life.

“Cancer is a scary word,” Robinson said. “When it is in the abstract, you don’t think about it much. I smoked for almost 40 years. Last June, I had a cancer scare and fortunately that is all it was. But between the time of the scare and the actual cancer-free diagnosis, it was all-consuming.”

Dr. Krishan Mathur, a Charles County oncologist, will be assisting the cancer society in getting community involvement for the study. He said that participation was also significant for him on a personal level: Mathur beat colon cancer 25 years ago and thyroid cancer 15 years ago.

“I know in my heart, body and soul what cancer can do,” Mathur said. “It’s the most curable disease in the world. The importance of studies like this is unparalleled.”

lrenner@somdnews.com

Staff writer Susan Craton contributed to this report.