BACKGROUND: Peripheral blood-derived inflammation-based scores such as the neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) and platelet-lymphocyte ratio (PLR) have recently been proposed as prognostic markers in solid tumours. Although evidence to support these markers as unfavourable prognostic factors is more compelling in gastrointestinal cancers, very little is known of their impact on breast cancer. We investigated the association between the NLR and PLR, and overall survival after breast cancer. METHODS: Data from the University of Malaya Medical Centre Breast Cancer Registry was used. Of 2059 consecutive patients diagnosed from 2000 to 2008, we included 1435 patients with an available pre- treatment differential blood count ( approximately 70%). Patients were stratified into quintiles of the NLR/PLR. Multivariable Cox regression was used to determine the independent prognostic significances of the NLR/PLR. RESULTS: Compared with the first quintile of the NLR, women in quintile 5 were younger, had bigger tumours, nodal involvement, distant metastases and higher tumour grades. Higher NLR quintiles were significantly associated with poorer survival with a 5- year relative survival ratio (RSR) of 76.4% (95% CI: 69.6-82.1%) in quintile 1, 79.4% (95% CI: 74.4-83.7%) in quintile 2, 72.1% (95% CI: 66.3-77.3%) in quintile 3, 65.6% (95% CI: 59.8-70.8%) in quintile 4 and 51.1% (95% CI: 43.3-58.5%) in quintile 5. Following adjustment for demography, tumour characteristics, treatment and the PLR, the adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for quintile 5 vs quintile 1 was 1.50 (95% CI: 1.08-1.63); Ptrend=0.004. Results were unchanged when the NLR was analysed as a dichotomous variable using different cutoff points. Although patients in PLR quintile 5 had lower survival than in quintile 1 (5-year RSR: 53.2% (95% CI: 46.9-59.2%) vs 77.0% (95% CI: 70.9-82.2%)), this association was not significant after multivariable adjustment. However, a PLR >185 was significantly associated with poorer survival; adjusted HR: 1.25 (95% CI: 1.04-1.52). CONCLUSIONS: Both the NLR and PLR are independently associated with an increased risk of mortality in breast cancer. Their added value in the prognostication of breast cancer in clinical practice warrants investigation.