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Sarah Brown Joins Generations Study



Monday 9 March 2009



Sarah Brown has joined the world’s most comprehensive study into the causes of breast cancer – as the Breakthrough Generations Study reaches its target of 100,000 participants.


Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife today celebrated by inviting two women taking part to meet her at No. 10 Downing Street to discuss the study. It will follow more than 100,000 women for the next 40 years, providing information about lifestyle, environmental, genetic and hormonal factors which will help identify the causes of breast cancer. Scientists believe that around 40 per cent of breast cancer cases could, in principle, be prevented, if the causes were better understood.


Sarah Brown said: “When I found out about the  Breakthrough Generations Study I knew that it was important for me to join. If the 100,000 women taking part can help scientists find the causes of breast cancer, it will be a wonderful achievement by all of us.”


Sarah Brown also met Professor Anthony Swerdlow, one of the scientists leading the study at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.


Anthony Swerdlow, Professor of Epidemiology at the ICR, said: “It was an ambitious target to ask more than 100,000 women to join the Breakthrough Generations Study just four and a half years' ago, but the response has been overwhelming from mothers, daughters and grandmothers all keen to be involved. Reaching 100,000 participants is the first milestone for this research. We are still recruiting new participants, and are very well placed for the next stages of the study.”


Amanda Jones, 66, from Surrey, and Charlie Wright, 37, from Staffordshire, were pleased to visit No. 10 and explain to Sarah Brown why they joined the study. Amanda’s daughter, Rebecca, died of breast cancer, while Charlie’s mother also lost her battle with the disease.


Amanda Jones said: “When I lost my daughter to breast cancer I wanted to do everything I could to help further research into this disease. It is tremendous to think that by joining the Breakthrough Generations Study I could help scientists discover more about the causes of breast cancer.”


Participants in the study are asked to fill out a detailed lifestyle questionnaire and give a blood sample periodically over the next 40 years. Such a long study is required in order to understand the complex mixture of factors – lifestyle, genetic, environmental and hormonal – which may be involved in the development of breast cancer and which may act at different stages of life.


Celebrity participants include singer Lesley Garrett, actress Michelle Collins and TV presenters Tara Palmer Tomkinson and Kate Thornton.


Jeremy Hughes, said: “The Breakthrough Generations Study is an amazing example of women from all walks of life working together with scientists to try to find answers to breast cancer. No other study has attempted to collect information on the causes of breast cancer on this scale before and we hope that it will lead to significant leaps forward in our knowledge of this disease.”


The Breakthrough Generations Study has been set up in partnership between Breakthrough Breast Cancer and The Institute of Cancer Research. The ongoing analysis costs of the study are being met in part by Marks & Spencer, through its support of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.


To find out more about the Breakthrough Generations Study, or if you are interested in joining it, visit





The Institute of Cancer Research:

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting-edge research. In 2009, the ICR marks its 100 years of world-leading research into cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The ICR is a charity that relies on voluntary income. It is one of the world’s most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 95p in every £ directly supporting research. For more information visit


Breakthrough Breast Cancer:

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is the UK’s leading charity committed to fighting breast cancer through research, campaigning and education. In 1999 Breakthrough established the UK’s first dedicated breast cancer research centre. The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre is housed in the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green building at The Institute of Cancer Research in association with the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Under the directorship of Professor Alan Ashworth FRS, the Breakthrough Research Centre now has 120 world-class scientists and clinicians tackling breast cancer from all angles – from understanding the normal growth and development of the breast, how breast cancer arises and how the cancer spreads, to treatment and ultimately disease prevention. Scientists at the Breakthrough Research Centre have a range of expertise and approaches and together they are working towards a common goal: a future free from the fear of breast cancer.


Breakthrough is opening three new research units in Edinburgh, London and Manchester during 2008/2009.


Breast Cancer:

  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK – nearly 46,000 women and around 300 men are diagnosed every year.
  • Breast cancer accounts for nearly 1 in 3 of all female cancers and one in nine women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
  • The good news is that more women than ever in the UK are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better treatments and better screening.
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