Journal Article
. 2019 May;().
doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.0620.

Insights Into Breast Cancer in the East vs the West: A Review

Yoon-Sim Yap 1 Yen-Shen Lu 2 Kenji Tamura 3 Jeong Eon Lee 4 Eun Young Ko 5 Yeon Hee Park 6 A-Yong Cao 7 Ching-Hung Lin 2 Masakazu Toi 8 Jiong Wu 7 Soo-Chin Lee 9 
  • PMID: 31095268
  •     12 citations


Importance: During the past few decades, the incidence of breast cancer (BC) has been increasing rapidly in East Asia, and BC is currently the most common cancer in several countries. The rising incidence is likely related to changing lifestyle and environmental factors in addition to the increase in early diagnosis with BC awareness and screening. The understanding and management of BC are generally based on research and data from the West. However, emerging differences in BC epidemiology and tumor and host biology in Asian populations may be clinically relevant.

Observations: A higher proportion of premenopausal BCs occur in Asia, although this factor is possibly an age-cohort effect. Although the relative frequencies of different immunohistochemical subtypes of BC may be similar between the East and West, the higher prevalence of luminal B subtypes with more frequent mutations in TP53 may be confounded by disparities in early detection. In addition, Asian BCs appear to harbor a more immune-active microenvironment than BCs in the West. The spectra of germline mutations in BC predisposition genes and single-nucleotide polymorphisms contributing to BC risk vary with ethnicity as well. Differences in tolerability of certain cytotoxic and targeted agents used in BC treatment may be associated with pharmacogenomic factors, whereas the lower body mass of the average woman in East Asia may contribute to higher toxicities from drugs administered at fixed doses. Phenotypic characteristics, such as lower breast volume, may influence the type of surgery performed in East Asian women. On the other hand, increased breast density may affect the sensitivity of mammography in detecting BCs, limiting the benefits of screening mammography.

Conclusions And Relevance: Breast cancer has become a major health problem in Asia. The inclusion of more women from Asia in clinical trials and epidemiologic and translational studies may help unravel the interethnic heterogeneity of BCs and elucidate the complex interplay between environmental and intrinsic factors in its pathogenesis. These insights may help to refine prevention, diagnosis, and management strategies for BC in the setting of ethnic diversity.

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