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After just 16 months of recruitment, researchers seem well on their way to attract up to one million volunteers in Ontario for the biggest health study in Canadian history.

"Our target for March 31 was 104,000 adults and we are already at 185,000," said Lyle Palmer, executive scientific director of the Ontario Health Study.

Adults in Ontario register by filling in an online questionnaire about their health and lifestyle. They will be expected to complete annual updates for the rest of their lives. Some of the participants will undergo physical exams and donate blood samples for a genetic profile.

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By amassing a huge database, researchers hope to identify the causes of many chronic diseases and how best to treat them.

Dr. Palmer expects to reach one million participants within four years. In the meantime, researchers have already begun to analyze the data.

The volunteers, he added, stand to personally benefit by receiving targeted health information. "If you have a family history of heart disease, we can stream information to you about heart disease prevention," Dr. Palmer said. "And we can tell you each and every study that your data has actually been used in."

The questionnaire can be found at www.ontariohealthstudy.ca.

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