B.C. Generations Project draws nearly 29 000 participants to province’s largest long-term cancer prevention study


Adults in B.C. have one more month to join nearly 29 000 people who have signed on as participants in the province’s largest long-term cancer prevention study. The B.C. Cancer Agency began recruitment for the project in 2009 and hopes to include 40 000 adults aged 35 to 69 across B.C. by March 31.

“If you’ve ever considered joining the B.C. Generations Project, now is the time to do so,” said Dr. John Spinelli, B.C. Generations Project principal investigator, in a press release. “By taking a few minutes to join the study online, you can contribute to a healthier future for our province’s children and grandchildren.”

The B.C. Generations Project aims to create a health database for researchers studying causes of cancer and the impact of genetics, environment and lifestyle on developing cancer. The study asks participants to complete a health and lifestyle questionnaire and to submit blood and urine samples over the course of several years to the nearest LifeLabs medical laboratory.

The B.C. Generations Project represents one of five regions across Canada taking part in the same study in association with the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project, a national cancer control strategy entering its second phase for 2012–2017. As of March 2012, over 200 000 people have joined the study across Canada, and 61 per cent have submitted bio-samples.

The questionnaire, consent form and personal information form take roughly 45 minutes to complete. Questions cover family and personal medical history, employment and residential information, as well as lifestyle habits like diet, exercise, smoking and drinking. The B.C. Generations Projects hopes that tracking this information across a significant portion of the population will shed light on why some people develop cancer and other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Aside from the basic survey and samples, participants can also make appointments to provide more in-depth health information such as bone density and per cent body fat. Assessment centres have been temporarily set up in cities like Kamloops and Victoria. Though the project is largely dependent on long-term involvement, participants have the opportunity to withdraw from the program at any time and are asked whether or not the Generations Project can contact them in the future at each stage.

Age is the only restriction on joining the study; only adults aged 35 to 69 are eligible to take part. For all types of cancer, greatest incidence is seen in adults over the age of 50. Seventy per cent of new cancer diagnoses and 61 per cent of deaths occur among Canadians between the ages of 50 and 79, though the highest proportion of cancer deaths occurs among people over the age of 80.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, and almost 40 per cent of these fatalities are due to lung and colorectal cancers. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 186 400 new cases of cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) were diagnosed in 2012, and the rate of new incidence cases in Canada is rising slowly, particularly among some types of cancer, such as liver and thyroid cancers for both men and women.