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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Ghana Breast Health Study

The Ghana Breast Health Study, a multidisciplinary case-control study of breast cancer, was launched in Ghana, West Africa, in 2013. The main aims of the study are to:

  • Identify factors that predispose to the development of breast cancer among Ghanaian women;
  • Identify genetic and other biologic factors predictive of risk;
  • Assess how these risk factors vary by clinical and molecular characteristics of the tumors

The study, which aims ultimately to recruit approximately 2,000 cases and 2,000 population controls, is being conducted in three hospitals in Ghana— Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra; Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, and Peace and Love Hospital in Kumasi. Population controls are randomly selected from the same residential areas as cases are expected to derive. Exposure information is being obtained through detailed personal interviews and anthropometric measurements. Breast tissue samples are being collected prior to treatment and preserved to enable accurate immunohistochemical characterization of tumor subtypes. Blood, saliva and fecal samples are also being collected to enable assessment of genetic risk markers, microbiome characteristics, and other possible biomarkers.

The study began with a one-year pilot, following standardized training of study staff in January 2013. During this time, we achieved questionnaire response rates of 99% in cases and 80% in controls, along with collection of biologic samples from most of the women interviewed. This success supported extension of the study for an additional two years. Preliminary data show a relatively high prevalence of exposure to some novel risk factors (e.g., 25% of women report use of skin lighteners, some of which contain hormonal constituents). The study should provide a wealth of data to inform our knowledge of the epidemiology of breast cancer in African women.

For more information, contact Montserrat García-Closas.