An Australian-first study aimed at preventing women from developing endometrial cancer is facing a road-block, and leading cancer experts are pointing the finger at a drop in the number of healthy Australians who are willing to take part in medical research studies.
The statistics are frightening: 1,500 women are diagnosed with endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus or womb) every year and on average one woman dies from this disease every day.
Despite rising public interest in medical research, scientists report that over the past 10 years the response rate to letters inviting the public to join studies like this has dropped by as much as 50%.
Dr Penny Webb from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) says Australians are becoming busier and are bombarded daily with junk mail, making it harder to convince people to take part in studies like the Australian National Endometrial Cancer Study (ANECS).
“The natural response when a letter arrives in the post asking for help these days is to say no,” Dr Webb said.
“For researchers, this is a big problem because if only a small proportion of people take part in these studies, they may not get the right answers.”
ANECS aims to find the causes of endometrial cancer, in order to find a way to prevent it from occurring as well as find a treatment for women suffering from the disease.
For this study, QIMR scientists need to compare lifestyle information from a large group of women with cancer to that from women who have not had endometrial cancer, who are known as controls.
Under strict scientific and ethical guidelines, the control women will be selected from the Australian Electoral Roll and invited to participate.
However, while Dr Webb’s team find that women who have had cancer are willing to participate, healthy women are more likely to say no.
“To get the right answers, it is very important that the control women in the study are typical of all Australian women.
“This means that we cannot just ask for volunteers, and for every five invitations we send, we need four women to take part.
“If you get a letter inviting you to take part in a medical research study, please consider saying yes.”
“You may help prevent our daughters and granddaughters from getting cancer in the future and, who knows, you may find it an interesting experience.”