Researchers behind the largest cancer study ever in Atlantic Canada have set a world record for the largest toenail collection, and now they're out for blood.

The Atlantic PATH project has collected 25,000 toenail samples from Atlantic Canadians in the ongoing cancer study.

Atlantic PATH

Project director Dr. Louise Parker says the toenails are providing researchers with a lot of information.

"This is a bit of light-hearted fun on a project which is rather serious in its ambitions," said Parker. "Toenail clippings are really important because they tell us about environmental exposures over about the previous nine months — before the toenails were clipped and during that time they're exposed to all the things that you're exposed to in your diet, in the water that you drink, you know, in the general environment."

Atlantic PATH — or Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow's health — is part of a national study looking at how genetics, environment, lifestyle and behaviour contribute to the development of cancer. The study has 30,000 participants in Atlantic Canada and is looking for 10,000 more participants who are between the ages of 35 and 69.

However, Parker says toenails don't tell researchers the whole story. So she's encouraging participants to provide blood samples along with toenail clippings.

"We don't know about what else is going around in the body. That's why we need blood, because we get blood and we can get plasma and serum which tells us about what's circulating in the body," said Parker.

"Most importantly, we can get DNA from blood and that gives us the opportunity to look at genetic factors and disease as well."