This week will mark the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society, but while survival rates are getting better, cancer is still the No. 1 killer in Minnesota -- but an ambitious new study could help.
ACS has conducted several major studies that have changed societal habits, thus bringing down cancer rates. One woman has been with the organization for nearly half its life, and Jean Fournier reflected on almost half a century of volunteer work while standing next to a tree where each leaf represents those who struggled against cancer.
"The day we don't have to add another name is going to be a real celebration," she said.
Fournier started out as part of The Crusaders in 1965, going door-to-door to fundraise and educate.
"Everyone knows now there's hope, but I'm not sure there was a lot of hope around in 1965. There's a big difference," she said.
When the organization was founded in 1913, just one in 10 people diagnosed with cancer survived. With thorough signs, billboards and awareness campaigns, that number grew to one in three by the 1940s.
As the time's changed, so did the mission. The first ACS study linked smoking to cancer, and they are continually looking for carcinogens.
"When I look at the progress we've made, I know we're heading in the right direction," Fournier said.
Now, the group's latest study is focusing solely on prevention -- and they say it's their biggest and most important study to date.
"It's so exciting to be part of a lifesaving study like this," said Holly Guerrero.
Nationwide, ACS is looking for 300,000 volunteers -- 2,000 in the Twin Cities -- to participate in a 20-year study to understand the environments, lifestyle and genetic factors of cancer.
"We're really looking at what individuals do on a daily basis -- what they are putting into their body, what they are doing on a regular basis, where they work -- to find out if that has any correlation to cancer," Guerrero explained.
Fournier knows the American Cancer Society has helped save lives -- including her own. She overcame breast cancer and said volunteering helped her recognize the signs. Now that this study is starting, she hopes it could be the beginning of the end of cancer.
"It could be the end of the fight," she said. "That's what we're trying to do is finish the fight."
ACS is currently looking for volunteers, but there are a few requirements. Firstly, participants must be committed to the length of 20 years, they must be between the ages of 30-65 and they must have no history of cancer. To sign up, click here: www.cps3twincities.org