More Women of Color Needed to Help the Sister Study Find the Causes of Breast Cancer

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This year, approximately 19,240 African American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers with the Sister Study are working hard to reduce that number by studying 50,000 women whose sisters have had breast cancer to determine the environmental and genetic causes of the disease.

The Sister Study is conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health –Sciences, which is trying to answer the question: Is breast cancer caused by something women come in contact with at home, at work or in their communities? In order to do that, the Sister Study needs the participation of a diverse population of women, including minority women, women that work in trade, and those who are over the age of 55.

African–American women, in particular, can play an important role in this landmark breast cancer study. Right now 27,810 women are enrolled in the study, but only 1,162 are Black women. Without African–American women, researchers will have a hard time learning why breast cancer occurrence and survival are different for Black women, who often develop the disease at a younger age and have more aggressive tumors than White women. Even though White women are more likely to get the disease, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer.

Women who have already joined the study say they want to help fight the disease now, so that future generations of daughters, granddaughters and nieces don’t have to experience the disease. Tina Hall joined the Sister Study as a tribute to her sister Wanda, a breast cancer survivor. "It’s really important for African–American women to participate in this study," said Tina, "because they need to know what’s going on with their bodies."

Lyn May is participating in the Sister Study in celebration of her sister Carol, a 16–year breast cancer survivor. "I’m delighted to help the Sister Study educate older women and African–American women about the causes of breast cancer," said 65–year–old May. "I have daughters, granddaughters, step–daughters and nieces. I’m participating in this important study for them, and for all women of color."

Kim Kirkland, a Sister Study participant from the Washington, D.C. area, joined the sister study to honor her sister, Karen, a breast cancer survivor and founder of the Sisters Network Inc. Kim believes it is essential that women participate in studies such as the Sister Study until breast cancer can be prevented and the lives of women from all backgrounds can be saved.

Pearline Singletary of Ohio joined the Sister Study as a way to make a difference. "I feel that it’s important to join the Sister Study to help find answers that will be beneficial to the future discovery of the causes of breast cancer," said Pearline. "I have now made this my personal crusade to encourage other women whose sisters have experienced breast cancer to join this Sister Study!"

Women ages 35 to 74 are eligible to join the study if their sister (living or deceased), related to them by blood, had breast cancer; if they have never had breast cancer themselves; and if they live in the United States or Puerto Rico. The confidential study consists of over–the–phone and written surveys, as well as the collection of blood, urine, toenail and household dust samples. The Sister Study does not require participants to take any medicine; undergo any medical treatments; or make any changes to their habits, diet or daily life. Researchers will stay in contact with participants for up to 10 years.

How can you help? You can join the Sister Study or simply spread the word to other women about the study. Joining the Sister Study and learning more is easy. Please visit or call toll–free 1–877–4–SISTER.

Woman by woman...sister by sister...we can make a difference.

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