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Celeste Leigh Pearce, PhD/MPH, wants to build more than a cohort of study participants.

She wants to create a movement.

It’s a movement to understand how exposures to toxic metals, industrial pollution, and “forever chemicals” called PFAS are impacting the health and cancer risk of residents across Michigan.

Specifically, she wants to recruit at least 100,000 Michiganders ages 18-49 from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, with a focus on those who live in environmental injustice hotspots such as Metro Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Saginaw.

“As a cancer epidemiologist, the opportunity to put together a cohort that really has the potential to help us understand these important exposures is the pinnacle of what we do,” said Pearce, co-principal investigator of the Michigan Cancer and Research on the Environment Study, or MI-CARES.

She is equipped with a $13 million grant from the National Cancer Institute and an expert team of collaborators from the Rogel Cancer Center and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, including co-principal investigators Bhramar Mukherjee, Ph.D., and Dana Dolinoy, Ph.D.

Pearce, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and co-lead of Rogel’s cancer control and population sciences program, reflects on the project and why bringing this study to Michigan is so critical.

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