Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2022

Written by: Rosie Lobley

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer has the highest incidence of any cancer, with 2.3 million women diagnosed and 685,00 deaths worldwide in 2020.1

Racial and class disparities persist in breast cancer outcomes.2 Around 99% of breast cancer cases occur in women, with far-reaching economic and social consequences;3 however, there has been an increase in the incidence of male breast cancer in the last decade,4 possibly associated with obesity rates.5 While men only make up a small proportion of breast cancer patients, male patients have a lower survival rate than female patients.6

Screening and self-checking

Due to COVID-19 constraints, breast cancer screenings in the UK dropped by 44% in 2020-21 compared to 2019-20.7 A 2020 survey found that 47% of UK women do not self-check regularly for signs of breast cancer and 10% do not check at all, with the most common reasons cited as forgetfulness and embarrassment.8

The 2022 UK James Dyson Award was won by the Dotplot, a novel device which helps women to self-examine and track changes in their breast tissue using an app.9 While the device is still currently in the early stages of development, its creators hope it will boost women’s confidence in performing self-checks.

Genetic therapies

Gene therapy has shown particular promise in treating breast cancer.10 A Phase 2 study has shown improved breast cancer outcomes with targeted treatment based around a patient’s genetic profile;11 while gene therapy using CRISPR/Cas9 technology could be particularly beneficial in treating drug-resistant breast cancers.12

Vaccine development

The rapid development of multiple vaccines for COVID-19 has inspired an increase in research into the potential of other mRNA-based vaccines, including a study into a breast cancer vaccine which would target the p53 protein in the same way that COVID-19 vaccines target the spike protein.13 The founders of BioNTech, which successfully developed a vaccine for COVID-19 in partnership with Pfizer, say that an mRNA breast cancer vaccine could be available before 2030.14

    1. World Health Organization. Breast cancer. 202. Available at: [Accessed October 2022].
    2. Yedjou CG, Sims JN, Miele L et al. Health and racial disparity in breast cancer. Adv Exp Med Biol 2019;1152:31-49.
    3. Coles CE, Anderson BO, Cameron D et al. The Lancet breast cancer commission: tackling a global health, gender, and equity challenge. Lancet 2022;399(10330):1101-1103.
    4. Konduri S, Singh M, Bobustuc G, Rovin R, Kassam A. Epidemiology of male breast cancer. Breast 2020;54:8-14.
    5. Swerdlow AJ, Bruce C, Cooke R, Coulson P, Griffin J et al. Obesity and breast cancer risk in men: a national case-control study in England and Wales. JNCI Cancer Spect 2021;5(5):pkab078.
    6. Konduri S, Singh M, Bobustuc G, Rovin R, Kassam A. Epidemiology of male breast cancer. Breast 2020;54:8-14.
    7. Breast Cancer UK. About breast cancer: facts and figures. 2022. Available at: [Accessed October 2022].
    8. Campbell D. Almost half of British women do not self-examine for breast cancer. Guardian Available at: [Accessed October 2022].
    9. McCallum S. Tool to spot breast cancer at home wins UK Dyson award. BBC 2022. Available at: [Accessed October 2022].
    10. Dastjerd NT, Valibeik A, Rahimi Monfared S et al. Gene therapy: A promising approach for breast cancer treatment. Cell Biochem Funct 2022;40(1):28-48.
    11. Andre F, Filleron T, Kamal M et al. Genomics to select treatment for patients with metastatic breast cancer. Nature 2022;610:343–348.
    12. Karn V, Sandhya S, Hsu W et al. CRISPR/Cas9 system in breast cancer therapy: advancement, limitations and future scope. Cancer Cell Int 2022;22:234.
    13. Queen’s University Belfast. Queen’s researchers receive funding for new breast cancer treatment. 2022. Available at: [Accessed October 2022].
    14. Sample I. Vaccines to treat cancer possible by 2030, say BioNTech founders. 2022. Available at: [Accessed October 2022].