Immunosuppression plays a pivotal role in assisting tumors to evade immune destruction and promoting tumor development. We hypothesized that genetic variation in the immunosuppression pathway genes may be implicated in breast cancer tumorigenesis. We included 42,510 female breast cancer cases and 40,577 controls of European ancestry from 37 studies in the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (2015) with available genotype data for 3595 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 133 candidate genes. Associations between genotyped SNPs and overall breast cancer risk, and secondarily according to estrogen receptor (ER) status, were assessed using multiple logistic regression models. Gene-level associations were assessed based on principal component analysis. Gene expression analyses were conducted using RNA sequencing level 3 data from The Cancer Genome Atlas for 989 breast tumor samples and 113 matched normal tissue samples. SNP rs1905339 (A>G) in the STAT3 region was associated with an increased breast cancer risk (per allele odds ratio 1.05, 95 % confidence interval 1.03–1.08; p value = 1.4 × 10−6). The association did not differ significantly by ER status. On the gene level, in addition to TGFBR2 and CCND1, IL5 and GM-CSF showed the strongest associations with overall breast cancer risk (p value = 1.0 × 10−3 and 7.0 × 10−3, respectively). Furthermore, STAT3 and IL5 but not GM-CSF were differentially expressed between breast tumor tissue and normal tissue (p value = 2.5 × 10−3, 4.5 × 10−4 and 0.63, respectively). Our data provide evidence that the immunosuppression pathway genes STAT3,IL5, and GM-CSF may be novel susceptibility loci for breast cancer in women of European ancestry.
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