Risk and prevention
The best weapon in the fight against breast cancer is the ability to stop the disease occurring in the first place.
Breast cancer develops due to a combination of genetics, environmental and lifestyle factors. It is estimated that one in four breast cancers could be avoided by changing a range of lifestyle factors - for example, limiting alcohol intake, exercising more and maintaining a healthy bodyweight.
We need to know who is most at risk of developing breast cancer and how we can best prevent the disease.
By 2025, we hope individual breast cancer risk will be more precisely predictable and up to 20% of all breast cancers will be prevented.
Where we are now
We have greater knowledge of lifestyle factors, so we can help women to reduce their risk of developing the disease. There are measures to limit breast cancer risk, such as preventive surgery, which can be offered to people with a high risk of the disease due to their family history. Drugs are also offered to women at increased risk of breast cancer for preventive purposes.
But we don’t yet understand how risk factors, like being overweight, actually link with the molecular mechanisms responsible for breast cancer. We need more accurate methods of determining a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and we need to learn more about how to help people change their lifestyle. We also need studies to reveal who chemoprevention drugs are most likely to work for.
One additional gap identified in risk and prevention research in the 2013 Gap Analysis is understanding which women at high risk of breast cancer are mostly likely to benefit from chemoprevention drugs. To tackle this gap, Breast Cancer Campaign commissioned three research projects to specifically tackle gaps in the area of prevention. These projects are an investment of £1 million and will help accelerate progress in breast cancer prevention, through exploring how we can predict if a woman will respond to chemoprevention, as well as testing a new chemoprevention drug.
Read more about these breast cancer chemoprevention grants by clicking the links below
- Professor Louise Jones - Developing a blood test to predict whether women will benefit from the chemoprevention drug tamoxifen
- Professor Gareth Evans - Finding ways to predict which women will benefit from breast cancer chemoprevention drugs
- Dr Sacha Howell - Studying whether ulipristal acetate can be used for breast cancer chemoprevention
2014 update: Risk and Prevention paper
In 2014 we invited the Risk and Prevention Gap Analysis group to revisit and expand upon their research into the gaps in breast cancer risk and prevention research. The resulting paper, 'Risk Determination and Prevention of Breast Cancer', was published on the 29th September 2014 and is co-authored by two of the original contributors to the Gap Analysis: Professor Tony Howell and Dr Michelle Harvie. The paper provides updated information about the ongoing development of more accurate ways estimate a person’s risk of breast cancer, as well as the latest evidence on how best to reduce people’s risk of breast cancer, from lifestyle changes to chemoprevention.
To learn more about the findings of the paper, please see the risk and prevention page.
So far, we have funded risk and prevention projects worth £2 million, with an additional £1 million announced in September 2014.
- Aim to quadruple our investment in research, campaigning and education over the next ten years to £8.5 million to tackle this critical area
- Look to fund research that furthers our understanding of breast density as a breast cancer risk factor and how this knowledge is best applied to help stratify screening based on risk
- Aim to collect breast density data and mammographic imaging data into the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank
- Raise awareness of lifestyle changes women should know about to help reduce the risk of breast cancer