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Super Seniors: Studying why some people don’t get cancer

Written by: Michelle Nicols

What makes someone susceptible to cancer and others impervious?

The researchers with the Canadian Cancer Society are asking just that.

According to the society, 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their life and it is the leading cause of death in Canada. With statistics like that, there’s no doubt that you or someone you know has likely been affected by cancer in some way.

With almost half of the population expected to develop cancer at some point in their life, researchers with the B.C. Cancer Agency launched a “super seniors” study which collected data from over 500 healthy participants over the age of 85. The goal is to find the “genetic ‘override switches’” and use that information to develop anti-cancer drugs. The Canadian Cancer Society writes, “It’s possible that such drugs, combined with a healthy lifestyle, could help other people to have a lower risk of getting cancer.”

Over several years, researchers continue to gather and analyze health and family history information and saliva or blood samples. Participants were also required to have never been diagnosed any major health issues such as cardiovascular disease or stroke, dementia, or diabetes.

“It appears that some of these amazingly healthy super seniors, who are still active and busy at an advanced age, could be genetically protected from cancer-causing mutations,” said the study’s lead investigator Dr. Angela Brooks-Wilson.

Dal Richards, a 97-year-old participant of the study said that two of his younger siblings died from cancer. “I’m hopeful that this study will find clues into why people like me don’t get cancer.”

So as we wait for more research, Richards tells CTV News that his secret to a healthy life is walking a mile a day will keeps the doctor away. “I think exercise is very necessary … sitting in front of a television is not the answer.”

Researchers are still accepting new participants. For more information and to see if you or someone you know is qualified, visit the study the study website.

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