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Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021

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.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


  1. To investigate how socioeconomic position (SEP) influences the effectiveness of cancer-directed treatment in premenopausal breast cancer patients in terms of breast cancer recurrence and mortality.

    Authors: Cathrine Fonnesbech Hjorth, Per Damkier, Bent Ejlertsen, Timothy Lash, Henrik Toft Sørensen and Deirdre Cronin-Fenton

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2021 19:235

    Content type: Research article

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  2. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a clinically aggressive disease with abundant variants that cause homologous recombination repair deficiency (HRD). Whether TNBC patients with HRD are sensitive to anthr...

    Authors: Gaoming Liao, Zedong Jiang, Yiran Yang, Cong Zhang, Meiting Jiang, Jiali Zhu, Liwen Xu, Aimin Xie, Min Yan, Yunpeng Zhang, Yun Xiao and Xia Li

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2021 19:190

    Content type: Research article

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  3. Glucocorticoids could theoretically decrease breast cancer risk through their anti-inflammatory effects or increase risk through immunosuppression. However, epidemiological evidence is limited regarding the as...

    Authors: Manon Cairat, Marie Al Rahmoun, Marc J. Gunter, Pierre-Etienne Heudel, Gianluca Severi, Laure Dossus and Agnès Fournier

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2021 19:186

    Content type: Research article

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    The Commentary to this article has been published in BMC Medicine 2021 19:187

  4. Trans fatty acids (TFAs) have been hypothesised to influence breast cancer risk. However, relatively few prospective studies have examined this relationship, and well-powered analyses according to hormone recepto...

    Authors: Michèle Matta, Inge Huybrechts, Carine Biessy, Corinne Casagrande, Sahar Yammine, Agnès Fournier, Karina Standahl Olsen, Marco Lukic, Inger Torhild Gram, Eva Ardanaz, Maria-José Sánchez, Laure Dossus, Renée T. Fortner, Bernard Srour, Franziska Jannasch, Matthias B. Schulze…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2021 19:81

    Content type: Research article

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  5. Observational studies have shown that milk consumption is inversely associated with colorectal, bladder, and breast cancer risk, but positively associated with prostate cancer. However, whether the association...

    Authors: Susanna C. Larsson, Amy M. Mason, Siddhartha Kar, Mathew Vithayathil, Paul Carter, John A. Baron, Karl Michaëlsson and Stephen Burgess

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2020 18:370

    Content type: Research article

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  6. Metastatic breast cancer is a major cause of cancer-related deaths in woman. Brain metastasis is a common and devastating site of relapse for several breast cancer molecular subtypes, including oestrogen recep...

    Authors: Sara Charmsaz, Ben Doherty, Sinéad Cocchiglia, Damir Varešlija, Attilio Marino, Nicola Cosgrove, Ricardo Marques, Nolan Priedigkeit, Siobhan Purcell, Fiona Bane, Jarlath Bolger, Christopher Byrne, Philip J. O’Halloran, Francesca Brett, Katherine Sheehan, Kieran Brennan…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2020 18:349

    Content type: Research article

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  7. Observational studies have investigated the association of risk factors with breast cancer prognosis. However, the results have been conflicting and it has been challenging to establish causality due to potent...

    Authors: Maria Escala-Garcia, Anna Morra, Sander Canisius, Jenny Chang-Claude, Siddhartha Kar, Wei Zheng, Stig E. Bojesen, Doug Easton, Paul D. P. Pharoah and Marjanka K. Schmidt

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2020 18:327

    Content type: Research article

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  8. Wide implementation of mammography screening has resulted in increased numbers of women diagnosed with breast carcinoma in situ. We aimed to determine the risk of invasive breast cancer in relatives of patient...

    Authors: Trasias Mukama, Mahdi Fallah, Hermann Brenner, Xing Xu, Kristina Sundquist, Jan Sundquist and Elham Kharazmi

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2020 18:295

    Content type: Research article

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  9. Despite the biological link between thyroid hormones and breast cancer cell proliferation shown in experimental studies, little is known about the association between hyperthyroidism and breast cancer, as well...

    Authors: Haomin Yang, Natalie Holowko, Felix Grassmann, Mikael Eriksson, Per Hall and Kamila Czene

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2020 18:225

    Content type: Research article

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  10. Even though in situ breast cancer (BCIS) accounts for a large proportion of the breast cancers diagnosed, few studies have investigated potential risk factors for BCIS. Their results suggest that some establis...

    Authors: Nena Karavasiloglou, Anika Hüsing, Giovanna Masala, Carla H. van Gils, Renée Turzanski Fortner, Jenny Chang-Claude, Inge Huybrechts, Elisabete Weiderpass, Marc Gunter, Patrick Arveux, Agnès Fournier, Marina Kvaskoff, Anne Tjønneland, Cecilie Kyrø, Christina C. Dahm, Helene Tilma Vistisen…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2019 17:221

    Content type: Research article

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  11. The 8th edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging has introduced prognostic stage based on anatomic stage combined with biologic factors. We aimed to validate the prognostic stage in HER...

    Authors: Maria Vittoria Dieci, Giancarlo Bisagni, Alba A. Brandes, Antonio Frassoldati, Luigi Cavanna, Francesco Giotta, Michele Aieta, Vittorio Gebbia, Antonino Musolino, Ornella Garrone, Michela Donadio, Anita Rimanti, Alessandra Beano, Claudio Zamagni, Hector Soto Parra, Federico Piacentini…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2019 17:207

    Content type: Research article

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  12. Metabolomics is a promising molecular tool to identify novel etiologic pathways leading to cancer. Using a targeted approach, we prospectively investigated the associations between metabolite concentrations in...

    Authors: Mathilde His, Vivian Viallon, Laure Dossus, Audrey Gicquiau, David Achaintre, Augustin Scalbert, Pietro Ferrari, Isabelle Romieu, N. Charlotte Onland-Moret, Elisabete Weiderpass, Christina C. Dahm, Kim Overvad, Anja Olsen, Anne Tjønneland, Agnès Fournier, Joseph A. Rothwell…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2019 17:178

    Content type: Research article

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    The Commentary to this article has been published in BMC Medicine 2020 18:18

  13. Breast cancer patients who have not previously attended mammography screening may be more likely to discontinue adjuvant hormone therapy and therefore have a worse disease prognosis.

    Authors: Wei He, Louise Eriksson, Sven Törnberg, Fredrik Strand, Per Hall and Kamila Czene

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2019 17:24

    Content type: Research article

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  14. The Opti-HER HEART trial aimed to optimize activity while minimizing cardiac risk by combining trastuzumab, pertuzumab, and paclitaxel with non-pegylated liposomal doxorubicin in the treatment of HER2-positive...

    Authors: Joaquín Gavilá, Mafalda Oliveira, Tomás Pascual, Jose Perez-Garcia, Xavier Gonzàlez, Jordi Canes, Laia Paré, Isabel Calvo, Eva Ciruelos, Montserrat Muñoz, Juan A. Virizuela, Isabel Ruiz, Raquel Andrés, Antonia Perelló, Jerónimo Martínez, Serafín Morales…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2019 17:8

    Content type: Research article

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  15. The focus of this study is to identify particular microRNA (miRNA) signatures in exosomes derived from plasma of 435 human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive and triple-negative (TN) subtypes o...

    Authors: Ines Stevic, Volkmar Müller, Karsten Weber, Peter A. Fasching, Thomas Karn, Frederic Marmé, Christian Schem, Elmar Stickeler, Carsten Denkert, Marion van Mackelenbergh, Christoph Salat, Andreas Schneeweiss, Klaus Pantel, Sibylle Loibl, Michael Untch and Heidi Schwarzenbach

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2018 16:179

    Content type: Research article

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  16. The risk of psoriasis in patients with breast cancer is largely unknown, as available evidence is limited to case findings. We systematically examined the incidence and risk factors of psoriasis in patients wi...

    Authors: Haomin Yang, Judith S. Brand, Jingmei Li, Jonas F. Ludvigsson, Emilio Ugalde-Morales, Flaminia Chiesa, Per Hall and Kamila Czene

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2017 15:154

    Content type: Research article

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  17. Endocrine therapy is standard treatment for estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. However, its efficacy is limited by intrinsic and acquired resistance. Here the potential of S100β as a biomarker and ...

    Authors: Sara Charmsaz, Éamon Hughes, Fiona T. Bane, Paul Tibbitts, Marie McIlroy, Christopher Byrne, Sinéad Cocchiglia, Jean McBryan, Bryan T. Hennessy, Róisín M. Dwyer, Michael J. Kerin, Arnold D. Hill and Leonie S. Young

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2017 15:79

    Content type: Research article

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  18. Circulating osteoprotegerin (OPG), a member of the receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B (RANK) axis, may influence breast cancer risk via its role as the decoy receptor for both the RANK ligand (RANKL)...

    Authors: Renée T. Fortner, Danja Sarink, Helena Schock, Theron Johnson, Anne Tjønneland, Anja Olsen, Kim Overvad, Aurélie Affret, Mathilde His, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Heiner Boeing, Antonia Trichopoulou, Androniki Naska, Philippos Orfanos, Domenico Palli, Sabina Sieri…

    Citation: BMC Medicine 2017 15:26

    Content type: Research article

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