Frequently Asked Questions
About the Study
What is MI‑CARES all about?
MI‑CARES wants to describe and understand the impact of environmental exposures on health, particularly cancer risk. The environmental exposures we are studying include air pollution, metals (like lead and arsenic), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), noise, and chemicals in personal care products (like shampoo). We will also assess how other factors, including where you live and work, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and lifestyle, impact the relationships between the environment and health outcomes. We will use the blood and saliva collected for this study to measure your exposure to chemicals like PFAS and heavy metals, as well as markers of stress and inflammation.
Who is running MI‑CARES?
Funding and oversight for MI‑CARES is through the University of Michigan and the National Cancer Institute.
Researchers from the University of Michigan include faculty from the School of Public Health and Rogel Cancer Center. For more information about the researchers, please look at the “Team” section of our website where we have included photos and biographies of each of our study team members.
Why conduct the study in Michigan?
Michiganders have experienced a suite of environmental exposures ranging from contaminated animal feed with polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) in the 1970s, lead (Pb) and toxin contamination of Flint's water supply identified in 2015, and the highest known PFAS levels of any state due to industrial contamination of lakes and rivers from the late 1940's to the 2000's. The “Tri-Cities” area of metro Detroit is home to more than three dozen industrial facilities in the area, including steel mills, coal fired power plants, garbage incinerators, and a large oil refinery. These exposures are profound and the strong history of community engagement and concern by community members about the impact of these environmental contaminants on their health is why MI‑CARES is so important for Michigan residents.
Why is my help important to MI‑CARES?
People in Michigan have been and continue to be exposed to chemicals in the environment such as air pollution, PFAS, and metals, but we don't have a good understanding of the impact these exposures have on our health, including our risk for cancer. Information learned from this study may help us learn about whether and how these environmental exposures cause health problems like cancer, and may help us find ways to prevent cancer and other diseases. It is important that Michiganders from all backgrounds participate in this study so that the results will apply to everyone.
Is this research only about cancer?
We will study many different health outcomes, but we are very interested in cancer risk. Large studies like MI‑CARES are very expensive and by using the data to study other diseases that may be influenced by environmental exposures, we can increase the value of the study and make the most of the important information you have shared with us.
How else can I be involved with MI‑CARES?
There are plenty of ways to be involved with MI‑CARES. Please go to our “Get Involved” page to find out how you can contribute to the MI‑CARES movement!
Who can participate in MI‑CARES?
Men and women aged 25 to 44 who live in Michigan.
Will I have to go anywhere to participate?
No, participation is 100% remote. You will complete the consent and questionnaire on your computer or mobile device. If you're asked to provide blood and saliva samples we will mail those kits to your home, which you will be asked to return to the MI‑CARES lab.
How long will the study last?
MI‑CARES began recruiting participants in 2022, and we plan to continue recruitment for at least 6 years. We will continue to follow participants for a long time (decades) thereafter to see who develops health issues like cancer.
Who makes sure this study is safe?
Research funded by the federal government is carefully reviewed and monitored. First, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Michigan (U-M) reviews the study, identifying issues and concerns, and works with the investigators as needed to improve the study. An IRB is an independent committee made up of at least five (5) members from the academic disciplines for which it has oversight and at least one member who is not affiliated with the institution. The membership:
- Comes primarily from faculty
- May also include students, staff and members of the community
- Must have the expertise and experience to evaluate proposed research projects
- Must be diverse in terms of race, gender and cultural backgrounds
If you would like more information on this important topic, please visit the NIH website at http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/
What if I change my mind after I have signed up?
You are free to leave the study at any time. If you leave the study before it is finished, there will be no penalty to you. If you decide to leave the study before it is finished, please tell one of the people listed in Section 9 “Contact Information” of the informed consent document. We will remove you from future annual follow-ups. If you choose to tell the researchers why you are leaving the study, your reasons may be kept as part of the study record.
What happens if I get cancer or another health condition while I am in the study?
You may still continue to participate in the study by completing your annual questionnaires. We will know if you have developed cancer from information that we will collect from the Michigan Cancer Registry and the national Virtual Pooled Registry Cancer Linkage System. We will also ask you about other health conditions on the questionnaire you complete each year.
Will I have to give any biological samples?
Participants who live in certain Michigan communities will be asked to provide blood and saliva samples. Those communities are Metro Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Saginaw.
Why isn't everyone asked to give blood and saliva?
Collecting and storing blood and saliva samples is very expensive, so we cannot collect these samples from all MI‑CARES participants. We have chosen the communities listed above, because these areas have known high exposure to at least one of the environmental exposures we are studying.
Can I still participate if I do not want to give blood or saliva?
Yes, you may still complete the questionnaire portion of the study without submitting a blood and/or saliva sample.
I don't have a computer, can you mail the questionnaire to me?
The questionnaire is mobile-device friendly so you may complete the questionnaire using your mobile phone or tablet. However, if you do not have a smartphone, computer, or tablet, we can mail your consent document and questionnaire.
Study Follow-Up Activities
What is the annual questionnaire?
The annual questionnaire will be very similar to the questionnaire you complete at the beginning of the study. We will ask you about major health events and major life events each year such as pregnancy. The purpose of the annual questionnaire is to collect information on things that may change over time.
What happens if I move or change my contact information while I am in the study?
If you move or change your contact information after you have enrolled, you can contact our team to update your information or you may provide your updated information during your next check-in point.
Can I get the results of my blood and saliva tests?
The purpose of the analyses of your blood spots and saliva is to measure your environmental exposures and to measure some markers of your current health status, rather than to diagnose diseases, so we will not be providing the results of these tests to participants
Privacy and Confidentiality
Will my information be kept confidential?
All data will be stored electronically in password protected databases on University of Michigan servers. Only the research team will have access to the data with your personal identifying information. Data will be provided to a National Institute of Health or similar repository or possibly to another researcher, but we will remove all of your personal identifying information (e.g. your name, date of birth, address) first.
We will link to cancer, birth and death registries to determine if you have been diagnosed with cancer, your birth information, or if you have died. In doing so, datafiles containing participant identifying information will be transferred using secure protocols so that the linkage can be done without disclosing your information to anyone.
What will you do with my information?
We will keep the information and blood and saliva samples we collect from you during the study, including information we learn from analyzing your blood and saliva samples, for future research projects. We may not test the saliva and blood specimens for all participants in MI‑CARES. This will depend on the amount of funding we have available.
Your name and other information that can directly identify you will be stored securely and separately from the research information we collected from you.
The results of this study could be published in an article or presentation, but will not include any information that would let others know who you are.
Will my insurance company or employer obtain the information I give you as part of the study?
No, neither your insurance company nor employer will have access to any information you share with us.
Find Out More
What should I do if I think I might have cancer?
Call the Cancer AnswerLine nurses at 800-865-1125. They can help you understand your symptoms and make an appointment with a Rogel Cancer Center clinic, if necessary. Visit www.rogelcancercenter.org for more information.
Still have questions? Please go to our Contact Us page