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Ann Afr Med. 2012 Jul-Sep;11(3):169-75. doi: 10.4103/1596-3519.96880.

Biology of breast cancer in Nigerian women: a pilot study.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba, Nigeria.



Compared to the developed world, there are relatively few studies that describe the tumor biology of breast cancer in African women. While little is known about the tumor biology, clinical and epidemiologic studies suggest that breast cancer in African women are characterized by presentation at late stage and poor clinical outcomes. Analysis of the biological features of breast cancers in Nigerian women was designed to bring additional insight to better understand the spectrum of disease, the phenotypes that present, and the types of interventions that might improve outcomes.


We performed histological analyses for hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone receptors), HER2, and tumor infiltrating macrophages (TAM) on 17 breast cancers, obtained from Abia State University Teaching Hospital (Aba, Nigeria), between November 2008 and October 2009. On a subset of these cases, we investigated the potential role of a virus in the etiology of these aggressive cancers.


The majority of cases in this cohort were characterized as high grade (100% were grade III), triple-negative (65%), and occur in young women (mean age 47 years). We observed high infiltration of TAMs in these tumors, but no evidence of a viral etiology.


Our findings indicate that breast cancers in Nigerian women have a highly aggressive phenotype (high grade, hormone receptor negative), which is similar to other studies from Africa and other developing nations, as well as from African American women, but is significantly different from Caucasian women in the developed world. The presence of high numbers of TAMs in these tumors raises the possibility of targeting the immune microenvironment for therapeutic interventions.

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