BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Veterans have the chance to be part of the cure for cancer, diabetes, and a whole host of other diseases.

Researchers are compiling a database of blood samples from 1 million veterans nationwide to fuel a wide range of research projects looking at how genes interact with lifestyle and military experience to affect health and diseases.

So far, more than 770,000 veterans have contributed blood samples for the voluntary Million Veteran Program research.

“Research findings through the Million Veteran Program may lead to new ways to treat and prevent illnesses for veterans and all Americans,” said Katina Thiel, the research assistant at the Buffalo VA who is coordinating the Million Veteran Program there.

Thiel points out that veterans offer a unique opportunity for researchers who are looking at how genes are affected by environmental factors, because they have been all over the world and exposed to all manner of things.

Participants say they’re hopeful their contributions to the research project could save lives.

“I think having this database in and the blood samples that are drawn will help support any of the medical problems that most people don’t even know they have because they don’t have the studies done. And I’m excited about it,” said Army veteran Neal Hodgson as he prepared to have his blood drawn at the VA Wednesday morning.

Hodgson, a retired medical examiner, says he’s encouraging every veteran he knows to take part in the Million Veteran Program because of its far reach.

“After 40 years with the medical examiner’s office, I’ve learned that nobody shares data. This is a national database for all of the veterans, so we can all benefit from this,” he said.

To take part, veterans must provide a small blood sample during a one-time study visit to the VA and they must complete some surveys at home.

Protecting private health information is a top priority.

“It’s important that privacy and confidentiality will be maintained, so all samples are kept in the VA’s secure bio-repository and given a coded ID and so is health information, and this helps protect the veteran,” Thiel explained.

More than 13,700 Western New York veterans have taken part in the program since it was started in 2011.

The program is open to all veterans.

If you’d like to participate, call Katina Thiel at the VA at (716) 834-9200 ext. 5634 or call the information center at 1-866-441-6075.