Thirty years from now, the information gathered in a study being performed by the American Cancer Society and 300,000 volunteers from around the country could identify the causes of cancer. And Carroll County residents have the opportunity to be a part of it.

The Carroll Hospital Center hosted an event Monday with the American Cancer Society to kick off the study. A number of people attended the event to learn about how they can help recruit Carroll County's portion of volunteers, 425, it needs for the Cancer Prevention Study-3.

The study tracks volunteers over a 20 to 30-year period using surveys that ask questions covering a variety of areas. Volunteers must be between 30 and 65 years old and have never personally been diagnosed with cancer in order to participate. The goals of the study are to better understand the factors that cause or prevent cancer and, ultimately, to help eliminate cancer as a major health concern, according to Dr. Flavio Kruter, medical director of the Carroll Regional Cancer Center.

"I wouldn't mind finding something else to do if we cure cancer," Kruter told the audience of about 20.

Kruter spoke about the important discoveries that have been made thanks to extensive, long-term research. The Hammond-Horn study, performed between 1952 and 1955, first identified the link between smoking and lung cancer. The next study, CPS-I, identified early deaths from smoking. The third study, CPS-II, identified the risk of death due to secondhand smoke, Kruter said.

Since those studies were performed, laws have been passed to put a Surgeon General's warning on tobacco products and protect people from secondhand smoke, he said.

Last year, there were 31,000 estimated cases of cancer and 10,440 cancer-related deaths in Maryland, including 839 cases and 320 deaths in Carroll County. It's important to continue making progress in the fight against all cancers, according to Gloria Jetter Crockett, state vice president of the American Cancer Society Maryland.

"This is our chance to be a part of something big," she said. "We can't do it without you."

The process to participate in the study is an easy one, according to Leslie Simmons, executive vice president of Carroll Hospital Center. Those interested in participating will go online to complete a 30-minute survey and schedule an appointment at one of four enrollment locations in Carroll. The person will then go to their appointment, have some measurements taken and give a small blood sample, Simmons said.

While it's easy to sign up, Simmons said its important that people only participate if they're willing to fill out periodic surveys spanning 20 to 30 years. Those that volunteer for the study should want to fill out the surveys, she said.

"Long term commitments add to the overall credibility of the study," Simmons said.