I thought I knew a lot about breast cancer, early screenings and research. Like most women, I knew the importance of doing monthly self-exams and having regular mammograms. Because I’ve had many friends impacted by breast cancer, I did my part to promote breast cancer awareness. I wore pink - bought pink – thought pink!
It was with some surprise that I recently learned of a unique, one-of-a-kind breast cancer research program, the “Sister Study.” The Sister Study is a national initiative being conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. The Sister Study is focused on learning how both the role of environment (workplace, home, community) and genes impact the chances of developing breast cancer. As the name implies, the study focuses on women who have had a sister with breast cancer. This is the currently the only long-term program that is focused solely on sisters.
In all, 50,000 women living in the United States or Puerto Rico between the ages of 35 – 74 will participate in the Sister Study. Selected participants will represent women from all walks of life and backgrounds including: educated/uneducated, White, African American, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, Islanders, etc. While participants must have a blood sister who has had breast cancer, women who have previously been diagnosed with cancer are not eligible to participate in the Sister Study.
In the initial phase of the study, the participants will complete a series of 4 questionnaires. In addition to the questionnaires, participants also provide samples of household dust, toenail clippings, urine and a fasting blood sample. Height, weight, blood pressure, along with hip and waist measurements are also recorded as a part of the study. Participants also participate in two detailed telephone interviews.
During the course of the 10-year study, participants commit to completing either a questionnaire or telephone interview every other year.