‘Pioneering’ new cancer research study launched in Manchester in memory of Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding

BCAN-RAY will be one of the first research studies in the world to identify new ways to predict the risk of younger women getting breast cancer.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 27th June 2023

A pioneering new cancer research study has been launched in Manchester in the memory of the late Sarah Harding.

The BCAN-RAY (Breast Cancer Risk Assessment in Young Women) has been set up following the former Girls Aloud star’s dying wish to find new ways to spot the signs of the disease earlier, and stop it cutting lives like hers short.

Sarah Harding sadly passed away from breast cancer aged 39 back in September 2021, just over a year after publicly announcing her diagnosis was terminal.

The singer, actress, and model was treated at The Christie in Manchester.

The innovative study has been made possible through funding from The Christie Charity, Cancer Research UK, and the Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal with support from Sarah’s family, friends and Girls Aloud bandmates – who, through various fundraising initiatives, have together raised over £1 million to date.


“Research is incredibly important in the fight against cancer,” Harding said before her death in 2021.

“Although this research may not be in time to help me, this project is incredibly close to my heart as it may help women like me in the future.”


BCAN-RAY will be one of the first research studies in the world to identify new ways to predict the risk of younger women getting breast cancer, and it’s being launched right here in Greater Manchester – with its first participant being local healthcare assistant, 33-year-old Catherine Craven-Howe, who is from Hale in Trafford.

The new study has been launched as it’s revealed that more than 150 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day in the UK, and nearly a fifth of all cases are women who are under 50, and most of who don’t have a family history of the disease.

The Christie in Manchester, where Sarah Harding was treated / Credit: The Christie

Despite it being the most common cause of death in women aged 30-55 years, there is currently no routine screening programme for early breast cancer in younger women who don’t have family history of the disease.


BCAN-RAY – which is taking place at The Nightingale Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital – will look at risk factors that are most commonly found in women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30s.

Based on those risk factors, scientists will build a model that can identify which women are most at risk in the hopes that their findings will enable all women to have a risk assessment for breast cancer when they reach the age of 30.

Those women identified as high risk could then have access to early screening and opportunities for prevention, to reduce the chances of them developing and potentially dying from the disease.

The study involves recruiting 1,000 women aged between 30 and 39 years old.

250 will be women diagnosed with breast cancer with no family history of the disease, who will be studied alongside 750 women in the same age group who have not had breast cancer, and who also have no family history of the disease.


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Find out more about BCAN-RAY and The Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Research Appeal here.

Featured Image – The Christie