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Walking — and sharing life details — to fight cancer

Before she joined the sea of pink-clothed people who turned out for a breast cancer walk in Baltimore Sunday morning, Janet Warren filled out a medical history and gave a blood sample. It was a different way to show her commitment to the cause — one that will last for years.

The American Cancer Society is recruiting adults who haven't had cancer to take part in a broad, long-lasting prevention study, the latest in a string of studies that date back 60 years. The nonprofit group hopes that by collecting health and lifestyle information from 300,000 Americans, it can help researchers find more clues to the frustrating mystery that is cancer — and develop more ways of battling it.


Participants agree to send updates every few years for the next two to three decades. The society is halfway to its enrollment goal.

It got one person closer with Warren, who lives in Frederick County.


"My mom died of breast cancer, and my aunt died of breast cancer," said Warren, filling out the study's initial survey beside her 22-year-old daughter, Leslie. "So we'll do anything we can."

The sign-up effort was part of the society's 11th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, which started at 33rd Street in the Ednor Gardens-Lakeside neighborhood. The four-mile walk drew more than 7,000 people and raised over $400,000.

Every shade of pink was on display, on every conceivable item. Hats. Socks. Shoelaces. Wigs. Tutus. Boas. And lots and lots of T-shirts.

One group of more than a dozen friends and relatives turned out in shirts emblazoned with a pink-and-white version of Superman's iconic emblem. Samantha Finnerty of Arbutus said they participate in the walk every year for her mother and one of their friends, both breast cancer survivors.

"This is my first time on crutches, though," said her husband, Travis Finnerty, who had sprained his foot. "I would not let crutches stop me."

And he didn't. He walked all four miles.

Vanessa Ray's knees are bothering her too much for a long walk — she was going to get knee-replacement surgery, but then she was diagnosed with cancer and that took precedence — so she sat on a bench and watched the walkers go by. She's a two-year survivor. Next to her sat Alison Riddle-Fletcher, who was diagnosed almost two years ago and whose doctors now cannot detect any cancer in her body.

"There's hope now," said Riddle-Fletcher, a dentist from Pikesville whose mother died of breast cancer in 1996. "Trust me — I'm living proof."


Gloria Crockett, state vice president of the American Cancer Society, said the annual walk in Baltimore typically draws more than 400 cancer survivors among the thousands who participate.

"It's about celebrating survivorship," Crockett said. "And also, it's about awareness."

Anna Renault of Essex is a survivor eight times over. The first was uterine cancer 35 years ago. Since then she's had colon, ovarian and skin cancer twice each, and most recently breast cancer. She's sure it's genetic in her case — her mother's mother died of cancer, and her father and six of his siblings did, too.

Renault, 62, credits early detection and good doctors for her ability to keep fighting cancer back.

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"We need to find a cure," she said, "so my grandchildren don't go through all this."


Cancer prevention study

The American Cancer Society is recruiting people ages 30 to 65 who have not had cancer for a nationwide cancer prevention study, the latest in a series of large, long-term research studies to better understand why some get the disease and others don't — and how to treat it.

Participants are asked to fill out an initial survey and give a blood sample, then fill out questionnaires every few years for two to three decades.

The society's next sign-up locations in the Baltimore area will be in Harford County in November. For details, go to