Background: Large-scale, prospective cohort studies have played a critical role in discovering factors that contribute to variability in cancer risk in human populations. Epidemiologists and volunteers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) were among the first to establish such cohorts, beginning in the early 1950s and continuing through the present, and these ACS cohorts have made landmark contributions in many areas of epidemiologic research.
Methods and results: The Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort was established in 1992 and was designed to investigate the relation between diet and other lifestyle factors and exposures and the risk of cancer, mortality, and survival. The cohort includes over 84,000 men and 97,000 women who completed a mailed questionnaire in 1992. New questionnaires are sent to surviving cohort members every other year to update exposure information and to ascertain new occurrences of cancer; a 90% response rate was achieved for follow-up questionnaires in 1997 and 1999. Reported cancers are verified through medical records, registry linkage, or death certificates. The cohort is followed actively for all cases of incident cancer and for all causes of death. Through a collaborative effort among ACS national and division staff, volunteers, and the American College of Surgeons, blood samples were collected from a subgroup of 40,000 cohort members and are in storage at a central repository for future investigation of dietary, hormonal, genetic, and other factors and cancer risk. Collection of DNA samples from buccal cells in an additional 50,000 cohort members is underway currently and will be completed in 2002.
Conclusions: This new cohort of both men and women promises to be particularly valuable for the study of cancer occurrence, mortality, and survival as they relate to obesity and weight change, physical activity at various points in life, vitamin supplement use, exogenous hormone use, other medications (such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and cancer screening modalities.