The incidence and mortality of breast cancer continues to rise rapidly in Asian countries. However, most of our current knowledge on breast cancer has been generated in Western populations. As the socio-economic profile, life style and culture of Asian and Western women are substantially different, and genetic backgrounds vary to some extent, we need to answer the question on whether to 'adopt' or 'adapt' Western knowledge before applying it in the Asian setting. It is generally accepted that breast cancer risk factors, which have mainly been studied in Western populations are similar worldwide. However, the presence of gene-environment or gene-gene interactions may alter their importance as causal factors across populations. Diagnostic and prognostic study findings, including breast cancer prediction rules, are increasingly shown to be 'setting specific' and must therefore be validated in Asian women before implementing them in clinical care in Asia. Interventional research findings from Caucasian patients may not be applicable in patients in Asia due to differences in tumour biology/profiles, metabolism of drugs and also health beliefs which can influence treatment acceptance and adherence. While breast cancer research in Asia is warranted in all domains of medical research, it is felt that for Asian breast cancer patients, needs are highest for diagnostic and prognostic studies. International clinical trials meanwhile need to include breast cancer patients from various Asian settings to provide an insight into the effectiveness of new treatment modalities in this part of the world.
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