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Lansing – A new study from the University of Michigan aims to understand how environmental exposures contribute to cancer in Michigan.

Research on Michigan Cancer and Environmental Studies, or Mi-CareThe project, said project director Sarah Snyder, is largely inspired by Michigan’s history of toxic environmental exposure and environmental injustice.

Researchers are recruiting 100,000 ethnically diverse, cancer-free Michiganders aged 25 to 44. It’s a statewide survey, but they will focus on nominations identified as six major environmental injustice hotspots: the Detroit metropolitan area, Saginaw, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Flint, Snyder said.

Environmental injustice refers to people who belong to groups that are discriminated against and who are not proportionate to contaminants and other health hazards.

June 1 marked a soft launch to test the website used to recruit candidates. People enroll every day, but the full launch of the study is estimated for sometime this fall.

“Nothing like this has been done before in the state of Michigan, which is almost shocking,” said Leela Khoja, a doctoral student on MI-CARES at the University of Michigan. crew.

“There is no community in Michigan that has not been affected in any way by environmental injustice,” she said.

This is decades old: PBB contamination Snyder said the number of dairy products in the 1970s, the Flint water crisis, industrial pollution in Detroit, and now PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment.

Snyder said the project, funded by the National Cancer Institute and UM, will track participants through an annual questionnaire for at least six years.

Snyder said they would be asked about employment and residential history, race, ethnicity, major health and life events and overall lifestyle to ascertain participant health and past exposure to industrial chemicals or other contaminants.

Beyond cancer, the survey may also shed light on whether exposure to chemicals in the environment leads to heart disease, asthma or even Alzheimer’s disease, says lead investigator of Biomarker Evaluation for MI-Care Dana Dolinoy said. Such surveys have a proven track record. For example, cancer rates in Flint are significantly higher than in the rest of Genesee County and the state, because lead has contaminated the city’s water supply.

“My cousins, my aunts, my friends have all died of cancer,” said Flint resident and community activist Arthur Woodson. “People are dying of cancer in huge numbers here.”

Such anecdotal reports may be reinforced by hard data produced by the Genesee County Health Department of Health study that proves the level of advanced cancer in the area.

A study recently published jama network open It was found that 1 in 5 Flint residents have presumed major depression and 1 in 4 have presumed post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He fixed the water, but he didn’t fix the people,” Woodson said.

One of the major goals of MI-CARES is to give people access to data that will help them advocate for a cleaner environment and healthier lives, Khoja said.

“You can’t advocate for change if you don’t have the numbers to show that this is why it needs to change,” she said.

According to the American Cancer Society, such cancer-focused studies, whether linking it to smoking, lack of physical activity or poor diet, played a role in the 29% drop in cancer death rates between 1991 and 2017.

Snyder said data from MI-CARES will help improve Michigan’s health, while providing policy information to reduce environmental injustice and harmful risks.

The researchers looked at what was going on in the state and narrowed the focus of the study to the most prominent 80,000 chemicals in the environment: exposure to metals, such as lead, chemicals in personal care products, air pollution and PFAS, Dolinoy said.

Michigan has the highest known PFAS levels of any state.

Participants from six Environmental Injustice Hotspots will send blood and saliva to measure certain contaminants, such as lead. These measurements, called intermediate biomarkers, show whether past environmental exposure has changed the epigenome — the instruction manual that tells genes how to behave — to make them more vulnerable to cancer and other diseases, Dolinoy said. he said.

The study focused on the younger population so that researchers can identify any diseases before they appear, Dolinoy said.

“It gives us time to intervene and treat individuals, because when the disease is already on board, it’s really difficult to reverse,” she said.

However, there is evidence that relatively simple things like lifestyle and diet changes can reverse changes in that epigenetic instruction book, especially early in life, Dolinoy said.

The hope is to inspire policy interventions with the findings of MI-CARES, whereby industry and other institutions are responsible for changing the environment. This is a challenge the health survey hopes to meet.

“It’s very difficult to translate some of this science in a way that will directly change the economics of the company,” Dolinoy said. “But studies like MI-CARES can provide evidence that shows that our environment may be making a negative contribution to disease status.”

To apply to be part of the survey, visit and “Join the Movement!” Click on Applicants age should be 25 to 44 years and cancer free.

A new study from the University of Michigan aims to understand how environmental exposures contribute to cancer in Michigan.

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