North Little Rock is one of the sites in Central Arkansas to be included in a national cancer research project.

The project will study cancer for at least three decades, and the American Cancer Society will be searching for volunteers to take part.

North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays said he feels so strongly about the cancer research that he personally is involved and is urging everyone who can to volunteer in the project during the Aug. 8 — 11 sign-up period at the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce’s offices.

Cancer has affected his family, Hays said, adding that it has impacted almost every other family in North Little Rock.

Unlike past studies, the new research project will follow participants for up to 30 years.

Hays joked during the news conference that he’d gladly sign up that day if researchers could guarantee him another 30 years in addition to the 64 he already has lived.

Earlier this spring Hays announced that 2012 will be his last as mayor of North Little Rock. Although he hasn’t ruled out campaigns for other offices, Hays said he thinks he has several years left to be a productive member of society in one form or another.

Volunteering to help promote cancer research is just one way to give back to his community, he said.

As the leader of the project in North Little Rock, Hays said he will be seeking volunteers to participate.

Anyone who has had cancer is automatically excluded from participating.

For the first time ever, the American Cancer Society will take blood samples and waist measurements.

Jamie Byrne, who is heading the statewide effort, said researchers will track several factors and relate them to cancer diagnosis, including tracking the evolution of changes in obesity, nutrition, activity such as smoking and their impact on morbidity and mortality.

It also will identify new risk factors for cancer caused by environmental changes, lifestyle changes, medications and new technologies.

“The Cancer Prevention Study -3, known as ‘CPS-3,’ is a long-term follow-up study, which will require only that the participant return periodic questionnaires after the initial sign-up,” Byrne said. “CPS-3 will build on a proud history of American Cancer Society-sponsored follow-up studies, starting in the 1950s, which have provided invaluable insights into the causes of cancer and the steps people can take to prevent cancer. We already have almost 200 volunteers who have registered to participate. That puts us well on our way to our goal of 944 people participating in CPS-3 in Central Arkansas.”

Seven locations for enrollment are in Central Arkansas, one of which will be in North Little Rock in the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce offices at 100 Main St. Sign-up there will be from noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 9.

To be eligible to enroll in CPS-3, men and women should:

• Be between 30 and 65 years old;

• Have no personal history of cancer, not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer;

• Be willing to make a long-term commitment to the study, which simply involves completing periodic follow-up questionnaires;

• Give a small sample of blood drawn by a trained, certified phlebotomist.

The goal of CPS-3 is to better understand ways to prevent cancer, Hays said.

Once a person has cancer, the body has been affected by the disease, treatment, and/or lifestyle changes as a result of the diagnosis. For this reason, the society encourages individuals without a history of cancer to enroll.

For more information, go to www.cancer.org/cps3.

To enroll in one of the seven available locations in Central Arkansas being offered Aug. 8-11, go to www.cps3centralarkansas.org. or call the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-888-604-5888.

A study volunteer can provide basic information and set an appointment for enrollment at one of the locations.

“I urge you to join me in this important movement to insure more birthdays for your loved ones and descendants,” Hays said. “Fight back against cancer by enrolling in CPS-3, and please help us recruit others involved from your friends, co-workers, neighbors and loved ones by volunteering the day of the event. We are also seeking cancer survivors, caregivers, or those who are interested in honoring a friend or loved one who has battled cancer, to serve as volunteers. Even if you cannot participate in the study itself, you can still make a difference by supporting this once-in-a-generation, historic research study.”