Breast carcinoma is one of the most common cancers in women and is known to arise from a multifactorial process, the effect of reproductive risk factors strongly supporting a hormonal role in its etiology. Breast cancer in Asia is characterized by a lower incidence than in Western populations, but is still the leading type of cancer in Asian women, and a significant increasing tread indicates that it is an issue of particular public health importance. Asian breast cancer is characterized by early tumor onset, showing a relatively younger median age at diagnosis. Recently, scientists began to explore the tumorigenic mechanisms underlying breast cancer formation at the molecular level. Both a candidate-gene approach and genome-wide association studies have yielded crucial insights into breast cancer susceptibility genes initiating breast tumorigenesis. As expected, ethnic/racial variation in the genotypic frequency of these genes results in differences in breast cancer incidence in different populations. Furthermore, the question of how important these genes are in Asian breast cancer remains to be explored. It has been demonstrated that gene expression profiles and gene sets are prognostic and predictive for patients with breast cancer. Originally, due to its early onset, it was speculated that Asian breast cancer would have a higher frequency of the basal-like subtype of breast cancer, a molecular subtype characterized by poor differentiation, resulting in a relatively poor progression; however, recent findings do not support this speculation. The frequency of the luminal-A subtype of breast cancer, characterized by estrogen receptor expression, is similar to that in breast cancer in Caucasian, supporting the usefulness of hormone-based therapy in Asian breast cancer.
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