As the etiology and progression of breast cancer remain incompletely understood, novel routes of disease pathogenesis are important to consider. Viral pathogens have not been much explored, but recent interest has focused on Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Studies of an association of this ubiquitous herpesvirus with breast cancer have had notably inconsistent results, marked by varying EBV presence (from 0% to 50% of tumors) and the absence of certain viral characteristics found in other EBV-related malignancies. The research has been plagued by the technical challenges of localizing EBV to tumor cells and by a tendency to overlook epidemiological cofactors, shown in all other EBV-related cancers to impact the EBV association. Breast cancer studies to date have used several viral detection methods of varying or uncertain sensitivity and specificity; most have involved small and/or poorly characterized case series and paid insufficient attention to epidemiological cofactors relevant to breast cancer and to EBV-related malignancies. Given these limitations and the established complexity of the connection of EBV with other cancers, a definitive judgment regarding the presence of this virus in breast cancer cannot yet be rendered. Recent advances in laboratory methodologies should help overcome the challenges of EBV detection in breast cancers. Further research is warranted, given the potential for an EBV association to inform not only breast cancer etiology but also early detection, treatment, and prevention.
Glaser, S. L., Hsu, J. L., & Gulley, M. L. (2004, May). Epstein-Barr Virus and breast cancer: State of the evidence for viral carcinogenesis. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.