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UC researchers seeking link between a virus & breast cancer

UC researchers seeking link between a virus and breast cancer

October 10, 2013

A University of Canterbury (UC) led research team is studying to see if there is a strong link between breast cancer and a virus, to help reduce the number of New Zealanders who die of breast cancer each year.

UC health sciences expert Professor Ann Richardson and her colleagues want to find out more about a potential link between breast cancer and a virus known as cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Professor Richardson will be presenting a public lecture at UC next week (October 16). See a preview video here:
``The causes of breast cancer are not fully understood. Some important risk factors have been identified but it is likely that some risk factors have not yet been identified. Our research could lead to a worldwide prevention of a significant proportion of breast cancer.

``Cytomegalovirus is a virus found in humans worldwide, but patterns of infection differ between countries.

``If an infectious cause for breast cancer can be found, it has the potential to lead to prevention of a significant proportion of breast cancer, by immunisation in early childhood.’’ 

Apart from Professor Richardson, the research team also includes Professor John Potter of UC’s Wayne Francis Cancer Epidemiology Research Group and experts from other centres including Finland. The Health Research Council of New Zealand, in partnership with the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, has provided $333,000 to fund the project.

``Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide, with over 1.4 million women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and over 450,000 women dying from breast cancer each year. 

``New Zealand has among the highest rates of breast cancer in the world.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand women, and the second most common cause of cancer death in women, with over 2700 women diagnosed with breast cancer and over 600 women dying from breast cancer each year. 

``The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer will increase because of the increasing number of older people and increasing size of our population.’’

Professor Richardson’s project will be undertaken in collaboration with researchers in Dunedin, Norway and Finland. Details of her lecture next week are here:


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