01:19 - Source: CNN
The health movement to save black women
CNN  — 

The American Cancer Society said Tuesday that it is seeking participants for what may be the largest national study of its kind, one that aims to solve the mystery of why Black women have the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US for most cancers.

Thanks to new medicines and better detection, cancer deaths in the United States have been declining since a peak in 1991, but Black women have the highest death rate for most cancers, according to the society.

The racial differences are especially stark with certain types of cancer, research shows. For example, Black and White women are equally likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but Black women are almost 40% more likely to die from it.

Black women are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with stomach cancer as White women and 2.3 times more likely to die from it.

Yet Black women have historically been excluded from most clinical research that has focused mostly on White men.

The Voices of Black Women study hopes to recruit at least 100,000 Black women from 20 states and the District of Columbia to follow for 30 years. The study is concentrating on these areas because they’re where 90% of US Black women between the ages of 25 and 55 live.

Twice a year, the study will ask participants about lifestyle factors, medical history and experience of racism to determine what might affect someone’s risk of cancer and dying from cancer.

To be eligible, participants must identify as Black and women, be between the ages of 25 and 55, and not have a history of cancer, with the exception of basal or squamous cell skin cancer. More information on joining the study is available on the society’s website.

As the American Cancer Society team constructed the study, it said, it was mindful of the long history of “mistreatment and abuse” of Black women’s bodies used to benefit science, “yet Black women have received the fewest benefits compared to their male and White counterparts.”

“It is important that we hear and address your concerns about research, treat you with respect and demonstrate cultural humility,” the organization says.

Past population studies from the American Cancer Society have helped transform scientists’ understanding of cancer. It’s largely because of an American Cancer Society study that scientists understand the link between smoking and lung cancer, for example. The organization hopes to see a similar breakthrough with this newest research.

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“Voices of Black Women represents a crucial step toward achieving health equity in a population that is long overdue,” said Dr. Alpa Patel, co-principal investigator of the study and the senior vice president of population science at the American Cancer Society, in a statement.

“The data we’ve uncovered through previous population studies has been critical in reducing the unacceptably high burden of cancer, but the reduction has sadly not been equal. By centering Black women’s voices and experiences, we can dig deeper in uncovering the unique challenges and barriers contributing to cancer disparities and develop tailored interventions to mitigate them.”