Studies explore impact of Wii, workplace wellness and healthy schools to prevent cancer

B.C. researchers will study Interactive video games, health promotion in the workplace and "whole school" healthy lifestyle to see how they can help prevent cancer. These three are among 13 B.C. research projects released by the Canadian Cancer Society. They represent an investment of more than $5.7 million awarded to top-ranking researchers for studies in a wide variety of cancer research projects including cancer prevention.

"Our greatest hope for eradicating and controlling cancer is cancer prevention. We are very grateful to our generous British Columbia and Yukon donors for making the research possible," says Cathy Adair, VP Cancer Control, Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon. "These exciting new projects are an essential part of our fight against cancer and build on the important prevention programs and initiatives taking place in communities across BC by the Society."

The projects will advance the field of cancer prevention research by identifying interventions against modifiable risk factors and conditions. These include exposure to tobacco and second hand smoke; lack of physical activity; diet and obesity; exposure to UV rays and other occupational and environmental carcinogens.

The three cancer prevention research projects include:

Dr. Carolyn Gotay, UBC, Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention $583, 111 over three years: The study will look at the effect of three health promotion strategies delivered in the workplace and their impact on employees’ health, work and lifestyle habits with the goal of ultimately impacting the onset of cancer. The workplace is an important site for promoting cancer-preventing lifestyle changes because people spend significant time there. We need to learn more to assess the potential of these workplace programs to promote a healthy diet, increase physical activity and decrease obesity in Canada.

Dr Ryan Rhodes, UVic $377,062 over three years: Interactive physical video games, such as Wii, have become popular with Canadian families - but how do they compare to other traditional types of exercise that promote regular physical activity and play an important role in preventing cancers? To answer this question, Dr Rhodes and his team will conduct a rigorous study on the family use of exercise games, comparing the use and effects of an interactive exercise video bike with a stationary bike in front of a television over a six-month period.

Dr Joan Wharf Higgins, UVic $599,034 over three years: Schools represent a key place to teach youth healthy lifestyle habits that will help prevent cancer later in life. While interventions that change students’ behaviours can be successful, to be fully effective there must be comprehensive school approaches that consider the school environment and policies. This study builds on previous research in elementary schools and will implement and evaluate the effect of a "whole school" healthy lifestyle program developed with student input that promotes physical activity and healthy eating with five British Columbia high schools.

The other new grants announced today represent the broad range of research funded by the Canadian Cancer Society - from prevention studies to genetics, biology, immunology, psychosocial issues and palliative care. For a full listing of research project visit

 [May 6, 2010]

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