Breast Cancer

Research Overview

The Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics has been studying breast cancer since the early 1990s, when it began recruiting Australian families to participate in a family study of early onset breast cancer, collecting data on potential risk factors, family history and biospecimens under the direction of Prof John Hopper. The program expanded in 1995 with funding from the National Institutes of Health (USA) to include a broader range of cases, including more early onset cases, later onset cases, more controls, multiple-case families, Ashkenazi-Jewish breast cancer families and twin families. The resource, known as the Australian Breast Cancer Family Study (ABCFS), currently comprises data and biospecimens for 8,700 participants from 2,200 Australian families. It is one of the six constituents of the international Breast Cancer Family Registry Cohort that provides a research infrastructure to investigate the genetic epidemiology of breast cancer.

The ABCFS is demonstrating the usefulness, novelty and importance of the population-based case-control-family design. We have conducted extensive research on genetic risk factors and environmental and lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer. Much of our research shows we can better understand environmental and lifestyle factors by recognising the enormous genetic heterogeneity of breast cancer risk. More recently, we have initiated studies which draw on complex statistical analyses of genome-wide association studies, twin studies, and studies of mammographic density, a heritable risk factor for the disease.


Professor John Hopper (unit head)

Dr Minh Bui

Sarah Carr

Dr Gillian Dite

Lupiya Mujala

Dr Carolyn Nickson

Pietro Procopio

Prue Weideman


Identifying risk factors for breast cancer is a major focus of the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study, which is led by collaborators at the Cancer Council Victoria.