Three young black women standing next to each other to symbolize that they may be at different risks for breast cancer recurrence to people of other ethnicities.
Credit: InkkStudios/Getty Images

The VOICES of Black Women study, the largest ever behavioral and environmental focused population study of cancer risk and outcomes in Black women in the U.S., has been launched by the American Cancer Society (ACS). The program is designed to better understand all the drivers of cancer incidence, mortality, and resilience in these women.

Black women continue to have the highest death rate and the shortest survival of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers. The VOICES study will partner with communities and experts in Black women’s health to better understand the unique, diverse lived experiences that may affect the risk of developing or dying from cancer. 

“But most of what we have learned about cancer is from white patients,” Alpa Patel told Inside Precision Medicine. She is co-principal investigator of the study and senior vice president of population science at the American Cancer Society.

She added, “This study is so large scale we are putting ourselves in a position to address all the issues, and we are recruiting young women as well, to provide a fuller picture.”

The idea is to capture the “lived experience” of these women, including such issues as hair product and supplement use, as well as family comorbidities.

The long-term study will gather data from Black women between the ages of 25 and 55 from diverse backgrounds and income levels who have not been diagnosed with cancer. The program aims to enroll over 100,000 Black women across 20 states and D.C. where, according to the U.S. Census, more than 90 percent of Black women in the U.S. reside. 

Recruitment for the study began in October 2023 with a pilot launch in Atlanta, GA, and Hampton Roads, VA. The national launch expands enrollment to Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. 

Participants must identify as Black, be assigned female at birth or self-identify as women, not have a history of cancer (except basal or squamous skin cancer), and be between the ages of 25 and 55. Enrolled participants will provide informed consent and, over the span of 30 years, answer behavioral, environmental, and lived experience questions through periodic short surveys delivered via a secure online portal. No medication, clinical testing, treatment, or lifestyle changes are part of the study.

“VOICES of Black Women represents a crucial step toward achieving health equity in a population that is long overdue,” said Patel. “The data we’ve uncovered through previous population studies has been critical in reducing the unacceptably high burden of cancer, but that 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.”

“We’ve given ourselves three years to get the first findings,” Patel told IPM.

More information about the VOICES of Black Women study and how to participate is available at

Also of Interest