About 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, making this disease the most commonly occurring female cancer. Breast cancer remains a major cause of cancer mortality worldwide.
Breast cancer arises from mutations in breast cells, owing to complex interactions between lifestyle, reproductive and genetic risk factors. Increasing age, benign breast conditions, lifestyle (obesity, smoking and alcohol), reproductive factors and hormone exposure have been associated with increased breast cancer risk. About 5-10% of breast cancer cases owes to family history, and the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is due to mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Yet, the knowledge into breast cancer development and its genetic landscape are still incomplete.
Throughout the past 40 years, improvements in screening strategies such as mammography have led to earlier cancer detection, while the advancements in precision medicine have improved patient survival outcomes. Despite this, women diagnosed with metastatic disease are incurable. Moreover, worldwide and socioeconomic disparities, ethnic differences as well as molecular heterogeneity of breast cancers pose challenges to treatment and many women experience disease recurrence. This calls for a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer treatment and care.
Every October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month to highlight the challenges and threats that breast cancer poses, and to celebrate new research into prevention, diagnosis and treatment breakthroughs which could one day lead to a cure for this devastating disease.
The Editors of BMC Medicine are delighted to share with you a selection of key papers that highlight some of the most recent epidemiological, clinical and translational breast cancer research published in the journal to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021.