Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS)


The BWHS is the largest follow-up study of the health of African-American women yet conducted. The purpose is to identify and evaluate causes and preventives of cancers and other serious illnesses in African-American women. Among the diseases being studied are breast cancer, colon cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, uterine fibroids, systemic lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis. The study began in 1995, when 59,000 black women from all parts of the United States enrolled through postal questionnaires. The women provided demographic and health data on the 1995 baseline questionnaire, including information on weight, height, smoking, drinking, contraceptive use, use of other selected medications, illnesses, reproductive history, physical activity, diet, use of health care, and other factors. The participants are followed through biennial questionnaires to determine the occurrence of cancers and other illnesses and to update information on risk factors. Completion of follow-up questionnaires by members of the 1995 cohort has exceeded 80% in each cycle of follow-up. Information on outcomes is validated through medical record review. Validation studies of diet, anthropometric measures, and physical activity have been completed. In a genetic component, saliva samples are being obtained from participants; DNA from the samples will serve as a resource for testing hypotheses about gene-environment interactions.

For more information, please visit the BWHS participants’ website.