Over the past two decades, breast cancer incidence rates have been increasing rapidly in Latin America. Young women with breast cancer are of particular concern. In-depth knowledge of the molecular and pathological characteristics of premenopausal breast cancer is lacking, with major consequences for cancer treatment and survival.

The PRECAMA study is a large, multicentre case-control study in Latin America that aims to advance the prevention and management of breast cancer in countries in epidemiological transition in Latin America through a better understanding of the molecular, pathological, and risk factor patterns. Women recruited to the study will be asked to complete questionnaires on lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors, and to provide blood and urine specimens that will be used for research purposes. Tumour samples will also be collected to identify molecular breast cancer subtypes by immunohistochemical analyses, so that targeted analyses can be performed of genetic factors related to disease susceptibility and prognosis.

The study is unique as it is the first to study specific genetic factors in the Latin American population that may be associated with specific subtypes of breast cancer as well as with specific lifestyle and dietary habits. The availability of a large, centralized biobank with blood and urine samples, as well as a comprehensive database of responses to standardized lifestyle and dietary questionnaires from thousands of premenopausal women across several Latin American countries will be of great value for breast cancer research over the next decades.

The PRECAMA study offers local training in immunohistochemical analyses, to ensure that the use of such markers quickly becomes standard practice for breast cancer management in leading Latin American centres. Moreover, the project will enable the identification of Latin American women with a family history of breast cancer, for whom incidence varies by sub-ethnicities. This study will better determine the prevalence of known hereditary breast cancer syndromes in Latin America, and will help identify patients bearing specific hereditary breast cancer phenotypes.

PRECAMA is coordinated by the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The Porter Lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has standardized pathological procedures and provides training and human resource development to participating institutions to continue local research. Currently, the study is enrolling participants in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The PRECAMA study is conducted in collaboration with the organizations listed here.