UM researchers need 100,000 participants for massive study

From nonstick PFAS compounds to lead in water to soot and smog, Michigan residents are exposed to more industrial contaminants than most states, and those contaminants are known to cause adverse health effects, including cancer. But how much exposure, for how long, causes those illnesses? When will the warning signs arise, and how will changes occur over time? How do race, nutrition and other factors influence health outcomes?

One of the largest studies of human health’s connections to environmental exposures ever conducted in Michigan is underway to attempt to get some of those answers.

The Michigan Cancer and Research on the Environment Study, or MI-CARES, is being conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health through a grant of more than $13 million from the National Cancer Institute. The study will enroll at least 100,000 people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds from throughout Michigan — especially from known areas of environmental injustice, where people of color are disproportionately burdened with pollutant exposures.

MI-CARES research assistants Melanie Vukovich, center, and Manar Aljebori, right, talk with an attendee at the University of Michigan's

Looking for early biological changes that could indicate cancer

Participants will provide researchers with answers to detailed health questionnaires as well as blood and saliva samples. Researchers will then assess what environmental contaminants the participants are exposed to and track over time, through additional questioning and sampling, how their bodies change.

“We are recruiting participants between the ages of 25 and 44 – not really the demographic that you think of as getting cancer,” said Lilah Khoja, a Ph.D. student in UM’s Department of Epidemiology.