Southern Community Cohort Study

Lead Contacts and/or Principal Investigators (PIs):

  • William J. Blot, Ph.D.
  • Lisa Signorello, Sc.D.
    Vanderbilt University and International Epidemiology Institute, Ltd.
    Nashville, Tenn., and Rockville, Md.

Funded Since: 2001
Funding Source: NCI Extramural Program (Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences; CA092447External Web Site Policy)
Year(s) of Enrollment: 2002 to 2009
Study Website: http://www.southerncommunitystudy.orgExternal Web Site Policy

The current body of knowledge regarding the etiology and prevention of cancer draws substantially from prospective epidemiologic studies, among which African Americans have been greatly underrepresented. Meanwhile, African Americans experience a disproportionate incidence of and/or mortality from many major cancers and other chronic diseases for reasons that remain unknown.

Our objective is to initiate a long-term prospective cohort study comprised of approximately 90,000 residents age 40 to 79, over two-thirds African American, of southeastern U.S. states. Comprehensive baseline information is being collected about dietary, lifestyle, medical, occupational, and other factors, and a large biospecimen repository is being established that can be used to test future hypotheses involving individual susceptibility to environmental carcinogens.

More than 80 percent of the cohort members are being recruited from southern rural and urban community health centers, providing health services to primarily low-income residents without health insurance. Here participants are being offered an in-person assisted interview using a structured questionnaire and the collection of blood, buccal cell, and urine specimens in a practical and convenient setting. The remainder are being recruited from the general populations, identified from driver’s license and voter registration records, and other sources. The cohort will then be followed actively via periodic repeat contact and passively via linkage with state mortality and cancer registries and the National Death Index.

The cohort is designed to be large enough to begin analyses of specific risk factors for common cancers (prostate, lung, breast, colorectal) within a few years of completion of enrollment. Furthermore, the large study size will enable the assessment of less common cancers afflicting blacks more than other racial groups, and the biospecimen repository will provide an invaluable resource for the evaluation of biomarkers of cancer risk.

Cohort recruitment is now under way at nearly 71 community health centers in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. More than 82,000 persons had enrolled by early 2009, with 90 percent providing biologic specimens for future assay.

The study should help answer questions regarding the etiology of certain cancers, elucidate causes of the disparities in cancer incidence and mortality across racial groups, and lead to the development of measures aimed at the prevention of cancer and other diseases, especially among African Americans.

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