American Cancer Society asks for 100,000 volunteers to study high death rates in Black women

Researchers are launching a landmark study to find answers to the racial gap for Black women.
Patient talking to a doctor
Posted at 4:46 PM, May 07, 2024

Even with all the progress in cancer research and newly developed treatments in the past few decades, the American Cancer Society says Black women continue to have the highest death rate of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers.

Black people have the highest death rate for cancer overall, according to the CDC.

Now, researchers are launching a landmark study to find answers to the racial gap for Black women.

Take an online survey over the course of 30 years: That's the ask from the American Cancer Society. It's for a landmark long-term study on cancer in Black women.

"About an hour investment every year is what we're asking for from our participants,” Dr. Lauren McCullough, visiting scientific director and VOICES study lead researcher with the American Cancer Society told Scripps News.

Researchers are recruiting 100,000 Black women across 20 states and Washington, D.C. Researchers say they picked these locations based on census data showing 90% of the Black female population lives there.

By recruiting many participants, the researchers will be able to look at more specifics in the Black U.S. female population.

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“Black women are not a monolith. There are a number of cultural, regional, and religious characteristics that intertwine to affect how they interact with the world. Their social environment, their behaviors, and ultimately their health outcomes. With this additional granularity, we can start to pull things apart. It's not just about being Black or it's not just about, you know, having a lower socioeconomic status or living in a rural or a metro area. We want to be able to explore the intersections of these things. That helps us get to better, tailored interventions for women living in this population,” McCullough said.

The American Cancer Society says past similar studies have contributed to landmark discoveries in cancer science, from the linkage of cigarette smoking to lung cancer, obesity to the risk of early death, and red and processed meat intake to higher risk of colon cancer.

Doctors often diagnose breast cancer at later and more aggressive stages in Black women than in White women, and Black women are more likely than any other women to die from cervical cancer, according to the CDC.

Participants will take a 30-minute survey twice a year. They will not be paid for their time.

“This study does not involve going to the doctor and having tests done specific to the study. It doesn't have any sort of medications or other interventions that we may ask you to do,” said Dr. Alpa Patel, VOICES study lead researcher with the American Cancer Society.

They're calling it the VOICES study in part because they want to include participants' personal experiences with health care.

"So for women who have had less than positive interactions with the medical care system, I think it's important for you to know that your feelings of being ignored, of being gaslit, are valid. Your story is not in isolation,” McCullough said. “I have talked to hundreds of women who have the same experience. I, as a Black woman, have had the same experience. And these are the types of experiences that we ask about in our survey.”

The study is open to participants who:

  • are biologically female or identify as female.
  • identify as Black.
  • do not have history of cancer (except basal or squamous skin cancer).
  • are between the ages of 25 and 55 years.
  • live in one of the 20 study enrollment states or Washington, D.C.