NASHVILLE, TN–Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the Presiding Prelate for the Thirteenth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church is encouraging A.M.E. church to spread the word about the Sister Study, a landmark breast cancer study to learn how environment and genes affect the chances of getting breast cancer. Bishop McKenzie also challenges other faith leaders across the country to help spread the word to women in their congregations and communities.

“When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it affects her family, her church and the community in which she serves. African American faith leaders can motivate women to find ways to help prevent diseases like breast cancer that are plaguing our communities. African American women should join the Sister Study so our young sisters won’t have to face the disease.” said McKenzie.
Much of what is known about breast cancer risk comes from research studies involving mostly white women. However, breast cancer occurrence and survival are different for black women, who often develop the disease at a younger age and have more aggressive tumors, than white women. Even though white women are more likely to get the disease, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer.
Conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), one of the National Institutes of Health, the Sister Study researchers hope to enroll at least 50,000 women whose sisters had breast cancer. Since its national launch in October 2004, the Sister Study has successfully recruited more than 47,000 participants, but researchers hope to double the number of minority women enrolled so the study results benefit everyone.
Bishop McKenzie serves as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her historic election in the year 2000 represents the first time in the over 200-year history of the A.M.E. Church, in which a woman had obtained that level of Episcopal office. In 2004, she again made history becoming the first woman to become the Titular Head of the denomination, as the president of the Council of Bishops, making her the highest-ranking woman in the predominately Black Methodist denominations. Bishop McKenzie has been honored for her community service, outstanding achievement and being a religious role model by a number of diverse civic, educational, business and governmental leaders. She is also the National Chaplain for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. an international public service organization and life member of the NAACP.
“We are extremely grateful to Bishop McKenzie for her support. One of the greatest legacies women can pass down to future generations is a better understanding of breast cancer,” said Dale Sandler, Ph.D., Chief of the Epidemiology Branch at NIEHS and Principal Investigator of the Sister Study. “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 future generations — daughters and granddaughters — from this devastating disease.”
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.
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, although they are free to make such changes over the course of the observational study.
Other organizations that are in partnership with the Sister Study include the American Cancer Society, Intercultural Cancer Council, the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Sisters Network Inc., Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.
To learn more about the Sister Study, visit the web site 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).