The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) needs 13,000 more women to join the Sister Study, the nation’s largest research effort to find the causes of breast cancer. Researchers still don’t know what causes the disease. NIEHS hopes to enroll a total of 50,000 women whose sisters had breast cancer. The Sister Study must meet its enrollment goal by the end of 2007.
Since its national launch in October 2004, The Sister Study has successfully recruited more than 37,000 participants — women whose sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer. Recruitment is far from over.
“Many women have heard about the Sister Study, but they haven’t signed up yet, and we really need them now,” said Dale Sandler, Ph.D., Chief of the Epidemiology Branch at NIEHS and Principal Investigator of the Sister Study. “Doctors know very little about how the environment may affect breast cancer, that is why the Sister Study is so important. We hope women will make that call today,” she added.
Available in English and Spanish, the Sister Study requires very little time from its volunteers. The 10-year observational study begins with participants answering questions about diet, jobs, hobbies, and things they’ve been exposed to throughout their lives to determine what may influence breast cancer risk. Later, at a convenient time and location for the participant, a female health technician collects small samples of blood, urine, toenail clippings, and house dust, which will also help give researchers a better picture of the woman’s environment and genes.
Women in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, ages 35 to 74, may be eligible to join the Sister Study if their sisters (living or deceased) had breast cancer. Women who join the Sister Study must never have been diagnosed with breast cancer themselves. Breast cancer affects women from every walk of life, so the Sister Study is seeking women of all backgrounds, occupations, ages, and ethnic groups.“If you’re a woman of color whose sister had breast cancer, your participation in the Sister Study is especially important,” continued Dr. Sandler. “We want to learn more about how to protect your daughters and your granddaughters from this devastating disease.”
Edith Joyner enrolled in the Sister Study in honor of her sister Carrie, who died of breast cancer, and her sister Pearl, who is a breast cancer survivor.“In 2004, two of my sisters were battling breast cancer,” said the 60-year-old resident of Nashville, Tennessee. “I felt helpless watching them fight the disease and wanted to do something,” said Edith who signed up for the Sister Study at the suggestion of her doctor.
“The feeling of helplessness has eased a great deal,” said Edith. “Giving a few hours of your time is a very small investment to improve the quality of life not only for their sisters, but for all sisters, daughters, nieces, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, girlfriends and most of all for our future generations of sisters all over the world.”
The Sister Study follows sound, ethical research practices, and keeps all personal data safe, private and confidential. Women who join are not asked to take any medicine, visit a medical center, or make any changes to their habits, diet or daily life. Organizations that are in partnership with the Sister Study include the American Cancer Society, NIH’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Sisters Network Inc., the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, and the Intercultural Cancer Council. In addition to working with its national partners, the Sister Study works with local, regional, and national organizations to inform diverse women about the study.
To volunteer or learn more about the Sister Study, visit the web site www.sisterstudy.org, or for Spanish visit www.estudiodehermanas.org. A toll free number is also available 1-877-4SISTER (877-474-7837). Deaf/Hard of Hearing call 1-866-TTY-4SIS (866-889-4747).