Open Access Research article

Interleukin gene polymorphisms and breast cancer: a case control study and systematic literature review

SP Balasubramanian1*, IAF Azmy1, SE Higham1, AG Wilson2, SS Cross3, A Cox4, NJ Brown1 and MW Reed1

Author Affiliations

1 Academic Surgical Oncology Unit, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

2 Academic Rheumatology Unit, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

3 Academic Unit of Pathology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

4 Institute of Cancer Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:188  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-188

Published: 14 July 2006



Interleukins and cytokines play an important role in the pathogenesis of many solid cancers. Several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in cytokine genes are thought to influence the expression or function of these proteins and many have been evaluated for their role in inflammatory disease and cancer predisposition. The aim of this study was to evaluate any role of specific SNPs in the interleukin genes IL1A, IL1B, IL1RN, IL4R, IL6 and IL10 in predisposition to breast cancer susceptibility and severity.


Candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in key cytokine genes were genotyped in breast cancer patients and in appropriate healthy volunteers who were similar in age, race and sex. Genotyping was performed using a high throughput allelic discrimination method. Data on clinico-pathological details and survival were collected. A systematic review of Medline English literature was done to retrieve previous studies of these polymorphisms in breast cancer.


None of the polymorphisms studied showed any overall predisposition to breast cancer susceptibility, severity or to time to death or occurrence of distant metastases. The results of the systematic review are summarised.


Polymorphisms within key interleukin genes (IL1A, IL1B, IL1RN, IL4R, IL6 and IL10 do not appear to play a significant overall role in breast cancer susceptibility or severity.