The Christie Charity Weekly Lottery temporarily suspended

Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding had everything to live for. She was young, talented and so full of hope for the future. Then, when she was 38, she was told the awful news she had breast cancer.

With no family history of the disease and with her being so young, Sarah’s diagnosis came as a terrible shock. And now, a team of experts from The Christie are hoping to identify young women who are most at risk from breast cancer. With a donation from you today, they’re hoping that they make sure these young women can get the screening and preventative treatments they need.

The Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal

Before Sarah died, Sarah spoke to her consultant Dr Sacha Howell about his research into breast cancer. It was so important to Sarah that other young women should not have to go through what she had.

Working with Dr Howell, The Christie Charity set up the Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal. This will honour Sarah’s memory by making sure that young women in the future are given the best possible chance of survival.

Sadly, Sarah didn’t get to see the launch of our project. She died on 5 September 2021, aged just 39, with her mother Marie at her side. More women aged 30 to 50 die of breast cancer than from any other cause.

If we could find those young women who are most at risk, we could do more to save them. But we need your help. Please give to The Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal today and help young women at risk of breast cancer.

Your gift can also help to create a legacy for Sarah. That’s the wish of Francesca, who was one of Sarah’s closest friends. Read Francesca’s story to see her memories of Sarah and how she wants to honour Sarah’s last request to raise money for breast cancer research trials.

How our specialists want to help women at risk of breast cancer

Breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates of all cancers if it is caught early. But around 1 in 5 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK is under the screening age of 50.

Because of this, breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women aged 30 to 50 years. These women tend to come forward with more advanced cancers because they do not have the mammograms which are there to diagnose breast cancer early.

Dr Howell’s research aims to change this. Your donation could be used to help fund a vital new project that we hope will lead to a national breast cancer risk assessment programme. This could lead to those identified as increased risk being offered early screening and preventive therapies.

This could help so many women at risk of breast cancer – women like Natalie. Natalie says that early detection is so important in cancer diagnosis and if her diagnosis had been delayed any longer, she might not have survived. Read Natalie's story and see why she supports more research into identifying breast cancer at a younger age.

With your help, Dr Howell, his team of specialists and his collaborators will carry out a study of 1,000 young women. They want to work out whether breast density is as strong a risk factor for breast cancer in this age group as it is in older women. This will then be combined with genetic analyses and risk factor questionnaires to provide the most accurate individual evaluation of risk.

You can read about Dr Howell’s research in more detail below.

All funds raised from this appeal will go to fund Dr Sacha Howell’s breast cancer research. He is heading up a team who will be studying 1,000 volunteers from the local area covered by The Christie. All will be women, aged between 30 and 39 and from diverse ethnic backgrounds. A quarter – 250 – will be patients who already have breast cancer.

Each volunteer will be asked to fill out a questionnaire, have a mammogram (breast scan) and give a saliva DNA sample. A subgroup will also be asked to carry out a cervical self-swab test.

Dr Howell and his team will study the mammograms to see if those women with breast cancer have greater breast density than those without. This has never been done in such young women before. The data from the saliva DNA test will be analysed by a team in Cambridge to establish the polygenic risk score, a measure of over 300 small variations in genes related to breast cancer.

The cervical samples will be analysed by a team at UCL in London using an exciting new technique called DNA methylation. All the data will be used to improve the existing risk models and we will let each woman know her risk score.

Those women who our experts think are at higher risk will be invited to a risk assessment clinic to talk about preventive measures and starting breast screening early. Every woman taking part will know that what the research is trying to do is determine just how much breast density impacts on breast cancer risk.

If Dr Howell can establish that the breast density and DNA tests can predict how at-risk women might be, he would have a prediction model that could be rolled out nationally to women as they reach their 30th birthday.

The research at The Christie aims to identify the factors that make some young women more at risk from breast cancer than others. The sooner our specialists can find these women, the sooner they can give them a much better chance of survival.

Last updated: August 2023