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Breakthrough Generations Study

This study is looking into the causes of breast cancer. Find out what the study involves and where to get more information.

The large study called the Breakthrough Generations Study aims to find out what causes breast cancer. It is supported by Breakthrough Breast Cancer and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).

Women living in the UK aged 18 years or over could volunteer to take part. It opened in September 2004 and, by summer 2012, had recruited 113,000 women. This includes women of all ages and from all areas of the UK.

What the study involves

Women taking part in the study fill in a questionnaire about factors that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, such as:

  • how many children they had and what age they were at their births
  • whether or not they've taken the contraceptive pill and for how long
  • whether they've had breast disease
  • their age and weight
  • any family history of breast cancer
  • their diet and alcohol intake
  • whether or not they've taken hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Women taking part are also give a blood sample. The researchers use the blood samples to look for any genes and hormonal factors that might influence the risk of developing breast cancer.

The research team contact women taking part in the trial every couple of years to ask about their general health. And the women fill out another questionnaire and give another blood sample every 5 years. The researchers can then compare the factors affecting any women who go on to develop breast cancer with those who do not.

The study will last 40 or 50 years altogether but the research team has already started to publish some results. 

More information

You can read more about the study on the Breakthrough Generations Study website. There is also information about a similar study looking at causes of breast cancer in men.

Last reviewed: 
13 Nov 2017
  • The Breakthrough Generations Study: design of a long-term UK cohort study to investigate breast cancer aetiology

    AJ Swerdlow and others

    British Journal of Cancer, 2011 

    Volume 105, Issue 7

  • Breathrough Generations Study Website 
    Accessed November 2017

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