Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



World Journal of Clinical Oncology


Volume 5, Issue 3

Inclusive Pages



Reproduced with permission of Baishideng Publishing Group, World Journal of Clinical Oncology.


Cancer clusters have long been a focus of interest because of the possibility of identifying etiologic agents. Only on rare occasions, however, have such cluster investigations been successful. One major difficulty in cluster investigations, particularly in the area of breast cancer, is the long latent period. There have been a number of publications providing a discouraging picture regarding cancer cluster investigations. The possibility of learning from a cluster investigation, however, is greatly increased if the cancer involved is relatively rare and if it has a short latent period. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) fits these criteria and is worth pursuing because of the strong evidence that environmental factors play a major role. In this report we describe our experience with several clusters and the lessons learned which are now being utilized to improve investigation of future IBC clusters. The first IBC cluster that we evaluated was in 2000, when we were asked to investigate an apparent cluster of IBC in Castro Valley, California where three women in an office setting of 24 people were diagnosed with IBC in a ten month period from May 1999 to March 2000. Our investigation of this striking cluster did not yield a specific trigger for this cluster but it did indicate that the women involved all had at least two IBC risk factors that may well have made them susceptible to getting IBC. We are now investigating another apparent cluster in Texas and are aware of several others requiring careful consideration. We see a need for a consistent protocol for the evaluation of IBC clusters focusing on the laboratory investigation of environmental triggers, primarily infectious agents and chemical carcinogens.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Peer Reviewed


Open Access