Facts and Figures

Breast cancer is a major global health problem and the leading cause of death among women of all ethnic backgrounds. Each year, an estimated 1.6 million new cases are diagnosed worldwide and in 2015, 560 thousand women will die of breast cancer.


  • World Health Organisation
  • National Cancer Registry of Malaysia 2005-2007.

Research Focus

Pick 19 women at random and chances are that one of these women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. That is how common the disease in Malaysia and how randomly it strikes. Around 5,000 Malaysian women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, most of them aged between 30 and 60 years, where nearly half of those affected are under 50-years of age.

At Cancer Research Malaysia, we are conducting research to find better ways to accurately identify women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer, conducting research to better understand how to cure the disease, and conducting research to help us improve patient support through patient navigation.

We are reversing the prevalence of breast cancer. We are reversing the toll breast cancer takes in our families and our communities.

    • WHY?
      Since the 1850s, we have known that some cancers occur in families, and breast cancer is a cancer with a strong familial component. By studying the genes that go wrong in our own cells which make us more likely to develop breast cancer, we now have realistic opportunities to transform predictive medicine and cancer screening.
    • Instead of screening all women over the age of 50, we now know that some women are at higher risk and may require screening as early as 25 years old, others may require screening starting at a later age, and some others may have such low lifetime risk that there is limited benefit to screening. By studying the genes and lifestyle factors which make each woman different, we aim to build better ways of accurately predicting risk so that we can target prevention and screening to help reduce the burden of breast cancer in future generations of Malaysian women.
    • WHAT?
      To find out the genes and lifestyle factors which cause breast cancer, we are studying women who have developed breast cancer and compare these with healthy women from the same population. Until end of Dec 2014, more than 2,900 Malaysian breast cancer patients from University Malaya (UM) and Sime Darby Medical Centre have participated in the “Malaysian Breast Cancer Genetic Study” dubbed MyBrCa (my-bra-kah) and 1,900 healthy Malaysian women have participated in the “More than a Mammo” programme.
    • MyBrCa and “More than a Mammo” determine how genes and lifestyle contribute to breast cancer and using these data, we aim to build a risk assessment tool so that Malaysian women can accurately determine their risk of breast cancer. Together with the International Breast Cancer Association Consortium, we have increased our knowledge of the number of breast cancer genes from 10 to more than 100. This research now opens up the possibility that we can more accurately identify women at risk of breast cancer.
    • HOW?
      Using genetic testing methods, we have analysed the role of breast cancer genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 in Malaysian breast cancer patients.  These patients are then offered specialist services to take appropriate screening and prophylactic steps to reduce their risk to cancer under our Familial Research Programme. These patients also help us determine what is the risk of developing cancer for a woman who inherits a gene in BRCA1 or BRCA2.
    • This is particularly urgent because although the risk to Caucasian BRCA carriers (such as Angelina Jolie) are known, the risk to Asian women are not yet known and could be lower because of differences in lifestyle factors such as the number of children we have, how long we breast feed for and other lifestyle factors.
    • In addition, we have analysed the role of other genes which may cause an increased risk to breast cancer and contributed to international studies such as the Breast Cancer Association Consortium to identify new breast cancer genes.  Collectively, we have now identified 50% of the excess familial risk to breast cancer and our current project is to use next generation sequencing methods to identify the remaining excess familial risk.
      Contribute to our research by participating in the “MyBrCa” or “More than a Mammo” research studies. To find out more, please email breastcancer@cancerresearch.my
    • WHAT?
      Supported by funds raised through the Sime Darby LPGA and in collaboration with Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare, the “More than a Mammo” programme seeks to understand the genes and lifestyle factors that contribute to mammographic density and breast cancer risk.  Any Malaysian woman aged over 40 can participate in the programme and all research participants receive a mammogram at a subsidised fee of RM50 (normal fee RM235).
    • Buoyed by the success of the “More than a Mammo” programme, the “Be a Boob Buddy” Campaign aims to remind every woman to be a Boob Buddy to her loved ones, to encourage men to also be Boob Buddies and to remind each woman to set a date for her mammogram/breast self-examination..
    • WHY?
      Mammograms are the most effective way of detecting cancer. We now know that women who have mammographic dense breasts (mammograms with many white areas) have up to 5 times higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to women than do not have mammographic dense breasts, and that genes and lifestyle factors can affect mammographic density.  We also know that Asian women have mammographic denser breasts, but ironically, lower risk to breast cancer compared to Caucasian women, but we do not understand why.
    • HOW?
      We are studying the lifestyle and genetic determinants of mammographic density and aim to combine these to develop a personalized risk score for each woman.
      Contribute to our efforts to develop more accurate ways of calculating risk by participating in the “More than Mammo” Programme. To participate, you need to:
    • +be a Malaysian woman. be 40 years of age or older*.
    • +have no personal history of breast cancer.
    • +have not gone for a mammogram for the last 12 months.
    • +donate a small amount of blood.
    • +complete a questionnaire about factors that relate to breast cancer such as whether you have even been pregnant, your age when menstrual periods began, your exercise and other habits.
    • +have a mammogram at Breast Care Centre, Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya.
    • *If you are less than 40 years of age and have a close relative with breast cancer, you should consult your doctor about the benefits and limitations of mammograms. With a doctor’s referral, you are still eligible for the study.
    • To make an appointment, please call: +603 5639 1340
    • Breast Care Centre, 1st Floor Outpatient Centre,
      Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya, 1, SS12/1A,
      47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor.
    • For more information about the research study, please email breastcancer@cancerresearch.my
    • WHY?
      Being told you have cancer is terrible news. Most women go blank, feel that their world has come crashing down and they are enveloped by feelings of fear, helplessness, sometimes despair. One of the biggest challenges is knowing what to do next.
    • WHAT?
      “Patient Navigation” refers to a system or a professional who helps patient understand the decisions that they need to make and helps them “navigate” the services that they need. Patient navigation programmes are designed to improve cancer care and patient outcomes through one-on-one educational and assistance – from initial screening to diagnosis to treatment.
    • Supported by funds raised through the Sime Darby LPGA and in collaboration with University Malaya, Cancer Research Malaysia has developed a Patient Decision Aid and a Patient Navigation video in different languages and dialects used in Malaysia. The decision aid and video are tools used by patient navigators to guide newly diagnosed patients through the maze of decisions and treatment options and empowers the patients to make their own treatment decision.
    • Supported by funds raised through the Sime Darby LPGA and in collaboration with Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang, Cancer Research Malaysia has established a Pink Ribbon patient Navigation centre at HTAR Klang and are working closely with doctors, patients and the community to improve patient survival.
    • HOW?
      Patient navigators are trained to assist and ‘anchor’ the patient so that they do not get lost in the complicated cancer treatment system, much like a navigator boat that brings a ship adrift in the vast ocean safely back to shore.
    • Our aims are to reduce late presentation of breast cancer through increasing awareness in the community, to improve patient journey by supporting them through the financial, logistical, knowledge and other barriers, and to improve survivorship by supporting patients after the completion of treatment.
      Our ultimate aim is to educate, empower, and encourage women – in short, to navigate patients towards the right channels in their vulnerable state of mind upon breast cancer diagnosis. For details,  please contact Ms Maheswari Jaganathan at maheswari.jaganathan@cancerresearch.my or call: +603 2712 3224.

    Learn more about patient navigation programme by reading the article below. For downloadable PDF version, click here.

    • WHY?
      In sharp contrast to Singapore and Korea where 5year survival for breast cancer is more than 85%, survival for breast cancer remains poor because of late presentation. Late presentation in turn is driven by a lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms, fear of screening and seeking alternative treatment, rather than evidence-based medicines.
    • WHAT?
      The “Be a Boob Buddy” and “Breast Friends Forever” campaigns seeks to increase awareness of breast cancer by encouraging all men and women to help their friends and family be aware of their risk to breast cancer, to come forward for screening mammograms if they are over 50 years old, and to lead a healthy lifestyle to reduce their risk of cancer.
    • HOW?
      Since 2007, each year in October, Cancer Research Malaysia raises awareness of breast cancer by partnering with Estee Lauder Group of Companies.
    • Since 2011, each year in October, Cancer Research Malaysia raises awareness of breast cancer by partnering with the Sime Darby LPGA tournament.  We distribute wrist bands and beads-on-a-string cancer awareness tools and leaflets on breast cancer, and partner with LPGA superstars such as Cristie Kerr to raise the media profile of breast cancer.
    • Since 2013, using funds from the Berjaya Cares Foundation, we have raised awareness for breast cancer in the “Be Frank: Outreach Programmes“.
      Run the “Be a Boob Buddy” Campaign in your office or your community by displaying information about breast cancer and encouraging your friends and relatives to come forward to screening mammograms through Cancer Research Malaysia’s “More than a Mammo” programme. Contact us at breastcancer@cancerresearch.my or +603 5639 1874 for more information.
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    • 2. “Identification of a recurrent BRCA1 exon 21-22 genomic rearrangement in Malay breast cancer patients.” Hanis N. Hasmad, Kavitta Sivanandan, Vivian Lee, Cheng-Har Yip, Nur Aishah Mohd Taib, Soo-Hwang Teo. Clinical Genetics (2014) (in press)
    • 3. “Common non-synonymous SNPs associated with breast cancer susceptibility: findings from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.” Roger L. Milne et al. Hum Mol Genetics (2014) (in press)
    • 4. “Germline polymorphisms in immune response and inflammation genes may influence disease outcome in breast cancer patients.” Jingmei Li et al. Nature Comms (2014) (in press)
    • 5. “Recurrent mutation testing of BRCA1 and BRCA2 in Asian breast cancer patients identify carriers in those with presumed low risk by family history.”Peter Choon Eng Kang, Sze Yee Phuah, Kavitta Sivanandan, In Nee Kang, Eswary Thirthagiri, Jian Jun Liu, Norhashimah Hassan, Sook-Yee Yoon, Meow Keong Thong, MiaoHui, Mikael Hartman, Cheng Har Yip, Nur Aishah Mohd Taib and Soo Hwang Teo. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2014)144: 635-642
    • 6. “Loss of PTEN Expression Is Associated With IGFBP2 Expression, Younger Age, and Late Stage in Triple- Negative Breast Cancer.” Sarah J. R. Dean, Claire M. Perks, Jeff M. P. Holly, Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy, Lai-Meng Looi, Nur Aishah Mohammed Taib, Man Kein Seong, Soo-Hwang Teo, Moses O. Koobotse, Cheng-Har Yip and Anthony Rhodes. Am J Clin Pathol (2014) 141: 323-333
    • 7. “Association of Type and Location of BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations with Risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer”. Timothy R. Rebbeck et al. JAMA (2014)(in press)
    • 8. “Targeted prostate cancer screening in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers detects a high proportion of clinically significant disease: results from the initial screening round of the IMPACT study.” EK Bancroft et al. Eur J Urology (2014) (in press).
    • 9. “Genetic variation at CYP3A is associated with age at menarche and breast cancer risk: a case-control study.” Johnson N, et al. Breast Cancer Res (2014) (in press).
    • 10. “FGF receptor genes and breast cancer susceptibility: results from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.” Agarwal et al.  British J Cancer  (2014)110: 1088-1100
    • 11. “The Decision-Making Journey of Malaysian Women with Early Breast Cancer: A Qualitative Study.” Adina Abdullah, Khatijah Lim Abdullah, Nur Aishah Mohd Taib, Soo-Hwang Teo, Cheng Har Yip, Chirk Jenn Ng, Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, (2013) 12: 7143-7147
    • 12. “Prevalence of PALB2 mutations in breast cancer patients in multi-ethnic Asian population in Malaysia and Singapore.” PhuahSY, LeeSY, Kang P,KangIN, YoonSY, ThongMK, HartmanM, SngJH, YipCH, Mohd TaibNA, TeoSH.  Plos One (2013) Aug 20;8(8):e73638
    • 13. “Fine-Scale Mapping of the FGFR2 Breast Cancer Risk Locus: Putative Functional Variants Differentially Bind FOXA1 and E2F1” Kerstin B. Meyer et al. Am J Hum Genet (2013) 93, 1046–1060.
    • 14. “Genome-wide association studies identify four ER negative-specific breast cancer risk loci.”  Garcia-Closas M, et al., BCAC.  Nat Genet. (2013) Apr; 45(4):392-8. doi: 10.1038/ng.2561.
    • 15. “Multiple independent variants at the TERT locus are associated with telomere length and risks of breast and ovarian cancer.”  Bojesen SE, et al., BCAC, OCAC and CIMBA.  Nat Genet. (2013) Apr; 45(4):371-84. doi: 10.1038/ng.2566.
    • 16. “GWAS meta-analysis and replication identifies three new susceptibility loci for ovarian cancer.” Pharoah PD, et al., OCAC. Nat Genet. (2013) Apr; 45(4):362-70. doi: 10.1038/ng.2564.
    • 17. “Large-scale genotyping identifies 41 new loci associated with breast cancer risk.”  Michailidou K, et al., BCAC.  Nat Genet. (2013) Apr; 45(4):353-61. doi: 10.1038/ng.2563.
    • 18. “Epigenetic analysis leads to identification of HNF1B as a subtype-specific susceptibility gene for ovarian cancer.”  Shen H, et al., OCAC.  Nat Commun. (2013) Mar 27; 4:1628. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2629.
    • 19. “Identification and molecular characterization of a new ovarian cancer susceptibility locus at 17q21.31.”  Permuth-Wey J, et al., OCAC.  Nat Commun.(2013) Mar 27; 4:1627. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2613.
    • ’20. “Genome-Wide Association Study in BRCA1 Mutation Carriers Identifies Novel Loci Associated with Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk.” Couch FJ, et al; CIMBA. PLoS Genet. (2013) Mar; 9(3):e1003212. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003212. Epub 2013 Mar 27.
    • 21. “Functional Variants at the 11q13 Risk Locus for Breast Cancer Regulate Cyclin D1 Expression through Long-Range Enhancers.” French JD, et al., BCAC. Am J Hum Genet. (2013) Apr 4; 92(4):489-503. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Mar 27.
    • 22. “Common genetic determinants of breast-cancer risk in East Asian women: a collaborative study of 23 637 breast cancer cases and 25 579 controls.”  Zheng W, et al., BCAC.  Hum Mol Genet. (2013) Mar 27; 22 (12): 2539-2550. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt089. [Epub  ahead  of  print]
    • 23. “Haplotype analysis of the 185delAG BRCA1 mutation in ethnically diverse populations.” Laitman Y, Feng BJ, Zamir IM, Weitzel JN, Duncan P, Port D,Thirthagiri E, Teo SH, Evans G, Latif A, Newman WG, Gershoni-Baruch R, Zidan J, Shimon-Paluch S, Goldgar D, Friedman E. Eur J Hum Genet.(2012) Jul 4. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2012.124.
    • 24. “Triple negative breast cancer and phosphatase and tensin homolog   loss are predictors of BRCA1 germline mutations in women with early onset and familial breast cancer, but not in women with isolated late onset breast cancer.”  Phuah  SY,  et al. Breast Cancer Res. (2012) Nov 2; 14(6):R142. doi:10.1186/bcr3347.
    • 25. “Comparable frequency of BRCA1, BRCA2 and TP53 germline mutations in a multi-ethnic Asian cohort suggests TP53 screening should be offered together with BRCA1/2 screening to early-onset breast cancer patients.” Lee DS, Yoon SY, Looi LM, Kang P, Kang IN, Sivanandan K, Ariffin H, Thong MK, Chin KF, Mohd Taib NA, Yip CH, Teo SH. Breast Cancer Res. (2012) Apr 16;14(2):R61. [Epub ahead of print]
    • 26. “Common variants at the 19p13.1 and ZNF365 loci are associated with ER subtypes of breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.” Couch FJ,.  Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. (2012) Apr;21(4):645-57. Epub 2012 Feb 20.
    • 27. “Common variants at 12p11, 12q24, 9p21, 9q31.2 and in ZNF365 are associated with breast cancer risk for BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutation carriers.” Antoniou et al. Breast Cancer Res. (2012) Feb 20;14(1):R33. [Epub ahead of print]
    • 28. “Ovarian cancer susceptibility alleles and risk of ovarian cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.” Ramus et al,.  Hum Mutat. (2012)Apr;33(4):690-702. doi: 10.1002/humu.22025. Epub 2012 Feb 14.
    • 29. “ENIGMA–evidence-based network for the interpretation of germline mutant alleles: an international initiative to evaluate risk and clinical significance associated with sequence variation in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.”  Spurdle AB, Healey S, Devereau A, Hogervorst FB, Monteiro AN, Nathanson KL, Radice P, Stoppa-Lyonnet D, Tavtigian S, Wappenschmidt B, Couch FJ, Goldgar DE; ENIGMA.  Hum Mutat. (2012) Jan;33(1):2-7.
    • 30. “Tumor suppressor BRCA1 epigenetically controls oncogenic microRNA-155.”  Chang S, Wang RH, Akagi K, Kim KA, Martin BK, Cavallone L; Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (kConFab), Haines DC, Basik M, Mai P, Poggi E, Isaacs C, Looi LM, Mun KS, Greene MH, Byers SW, Teo SH, Deng CX, Sharan SK.  Nat Med. (2011) Sep 25;17(10):1275-82. doi: 10.1038/nm.2459. Erratum in: Nat Med. 2011 Nov;17(11):1521. Nat Med. 2011 Oct;17(10):2 p following 1282.
    • 31. “Common alleles at 6q25.1 and 1p11.2 are associated with breast cancer risk for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.” Antoniou et al.,.  Hum Mol Genet (2011) 20(16):3304-21. Epub 2011 May 18.
    • 32. “Genetic counseling for patients and families with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer in a developing Asian country: an observational descriptive study.” Yoon SY, Thong MK, Taib NA, Yip CH, Teo SH. Fam Cancer. (2011) Feb 12. [Epub ahead of print]
    • 33. “Targeted prostate cancer screening in men with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 detects aggressive prostate cancer: preliminary analysis of the results of the IMPACT study” A Mitra, et al BJU Int. (2011) 107(1):28-39
    • 34. “Large genomic rearrangements in BRCA1 and BRCA2 in Malaysian Breast Cancer Patients” Kang P, S Mariapun, Phuah SY, Lim LL, Liu JJ, Yoon SY, Thong MK, NA Mohd Taib, Yip CH and Teo SH Breast Cancer Res Treatment (2010) 124(2):579-84
    • 35. “Clinical and Pathologic Differences Between BRCA1-, BRCA2-, and Non-BRCA-Associated Breast Cancers in a Multiracial Developing Country.”  Yip CH, Taib NA, Choo WY, Rampal S, Thong MK, Teo SH. World J Surg. (2009) 33: 2077 – 81
    • 36. “Clinical characteristics of triple-negative breast cancer: experience in an Asian developing country.”  Tan GH, Taib NA, Choo WY, Teo SH, Yip CH.Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. (2009) 10(3):395-8.
      37. “CHEK2 1100delC does not contribute significantly to breast cancer risk in Malaysia’s multi-ethnic population” E Thirthagiri, Cheong LS, CH Yip andSH Teo Familial Cancer (2009) 8(4): 355-8.
    • 38. “Evaluation of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations and risk prediction models in a typical Asian country (Malaysia) with relatively low incidence of breast cancer.”  E Thirthagiri, SY Lee, P Kang, D Lee, GT Toh, SA Selamat, SY Yoon, NA Taib, MK Thong, CH Yip, and SH Teo. Breast Cancer Research(2008) 10 R59.
    • 39. “BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations in Malaysian women with early-onset breast cancer without a family history”.  GT Toh, P Kang, SS Lee, DS Lee, SY Lee, SA Selamat, NA Taib, SY Yoon, CH Yip and SH Teo. PlosOne (2008) 3(4) e2024.