SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – According to the CDC, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the country and in 2019 nearly 600,000 people died from the disease. A study at Sanford Health will help researchers understand the causes of cancer and even potential ways to prevent it.

Jennifer Salonen signed up for the Connect Study at Sanford Health about a year ago.

The health organization is one of nine sites participating in the study that aims to determine when and why people develop certain types of cancer.

“Taking a group of healthy individuals, which we know some will, unfortunately, develop cancer, and then asking them to give us a blood sample and then just follow them for a period of time and then when people develop cancer we can take a hard look at potentially why did they develop cancer,” president for Sanford Research, David Pearce said.

Since being part of the study, some members of Salonen’s own family have been impacted by cancer, making her participation even more important to her.

“Recently, my sister in the last five months has been diagnosed with breast cancer stage 4, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in the last six months as well, so after signing up for this study it just really hit home, the importance of getting that information out there so researchers can use that information to help potentially prevent cancer,” participant, Jennifer Salonen said.

To participate in the study you have to be between the ages of 40 and 65 and have no cancer history.

“One of the things that is going to be looked at is really the environment that you’re actually in and the diversity of the population that we have in Sioux Falls,” Pearce said.

At Sanford, the plan is to have about 10,000 participants.

“Gives us the opportunity to look at the variety of individuals who live here, particularly individuals in rural lands because we want to see a diversity of experiences and lifestyles, occupations, and how those are related to cancer risk,” chief scientist of the Connect for Cancer Prevention study, Mia Gaudet said.

Salonen says giving her time can help make a difference.

“I think if you can prevent somebody from hearing those words ‘you have cancer,’ or ‘your family member has cancer,’ it’s definitely worth it,” Salonen said.

Out of the nine healthcare sites involved in the study, they want to have about 200,000 participants.

You can sign up for the study through Sanford My Chart. We’ve also provided a link with more information here.