11/04/2011 06:47 EDT | Updated 01/04/2012 05:12 EST

N.B. Undertakes Largest Cancer Study In Canada


The largest cancer study in Canadian history got underway this week in New Brunswick, just as the disease has become the leading cause of death in every Canadian province and territory.

The goal of the study is to recruit 10,000 New Brunswickers to participate.

Dixie Forsythe was one of the first people to sign up. As a nurse she wants to do her part to protect future generations.

"I've had a couple of people in my family die from cancer, so that was another reason that I thought if I could help out, why not?” Forsythe said Thursday.

“And I work with terminally ill patients, so that's just something near to my heart. It’s a 30-year study, so if it helps somebody down the road, then why not participate.”

With assessment centres just up and running this week, 2,500 people have already volunteered.

Tony Loring, partnership manager with Atlantic PATH, which is operating the assessment centre in Fredericton, said it’s been easy to get volunteers.

“The response has been great. It’s not too difficult to find people who have been touched by cancer because with a statistic like one in three, everyone —in one way or another — is affected by cancer,” he said.

The volunteers are weighed and measured and asked to provide blood and tissue, including toenail clippings.

"The toenail samples are part of a sub-study that really is looking at arsenic in the body. We know that arsenic is carcinogenic, but we want to look at what levels are in the body and what happens to those people over time," Loring said.

The study is open to anyone between the ages of 35 and 69 with assessment centres now open in Moncton and Fredericton. One will soon open in Saint John. Each year more than 13,000 Atlantic Canadians are diagnosed with cancer. And, every year more than 3,600 will die from the disease.