Over 50,000 Sisters Sign Up to Help Find the Causes of Breast Cancer

It has taken five years, but the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Sister Study has met it’s goal of recruiting 50,000 sisters of women who had breast cancer, to study the causes of breast cancer.  The sisters will be followed for ten years, and those who develop breast cancer will be compared to those who do not, to find clues about what causes breast cancer and what helps it grow.  The sisters are at increased risk for developing breast cancer because of their family history.  Over 900 participants have already developed breast cancer since the study began.

The Sister Study is the first long-term study of breast cancer to collect such extensive information on genes and environmental exposures.  The sisters provide blood, urine, toenail, and household dust samples, and complete extensive questionnaires and phone interviews.  Those who develop breast cancer will be asked to provide additional samples and access to medical records.

I’m excited to see that as part of this larger study, a smaller “two-sister” study will be investigating women who developed breast cancer before the age of 50.  In this offshoot of the Sister Study, the sister with young-onset breast cancer and her parents will also be invited to join the study, along with the sister who does not have breast cancer.  The investigators hope to recruit 1600 families to join this subset of the Sister Study to learn more about causes of pre-menopausal breast cancer.

Investigators hope to begin releasing results on gene-environment interactions and breast cancer development in just a few years.  Let’s hope this begins to give us some answers on why breast cancer develops and more importantly, information on how to prevent it.

To read more about the Sister Study click here.

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