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1.  DEAR1 Is a Dominant Regulator of Acinar Morphogenesis and an Independent Predictor of Local Recurrence-Free Survival in Early-Onset Breast Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000068.
Ann Killary and colleagues describe a new gene that is genetically altered in breast tumors, and that may provide a new breast cancer prognostic marker.
Background
Breast cancer in young women tends to have a natural history of aggressive disease for which rates of recurrence are higher than in breast cancers detected later in life. Little is known about the genetic pathways that underlie early-onset breast cancer. Here we report the discovery of DEAR1 (ductal epithelium–associated RING Chromosome 1), a novel gene encoding a member of the TRIM (tripartite motif) subfamily of RING finger proteins, and provide evidence for its role as a dominant regulator of acinar morphogenesis in the mammary gland and as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival in early-onset breast cancer.
Methods and Findings
Suppression subtractive hybridization identified DEAR1 as a novel gene mapping to a region of high-frequency loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in a number of histologically diverse human cancers within Chromosome 1p35.1. In the breast epithelium, DEAR1 expression is limited to the ductal and glandular epithelium and is down-regulated in transition to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early histologic stage in breast tumorigenesis. DEAR1 missense mutations and homozygous deletion (HD) were discovered in breast cancer cell lines and tumor samples. Introduction of the DEAR1 wild type and not the missense mutant alleles to complement a mutation in a breast cancer cell line, derived from a 36-year-old female with invasive breast cancer, initiated acinar morphogenesis in three-dimensional (3D) basement membrane culture and restored tissue architecture reminiscent of normal acinar structures in the mammary gland in vivo. Stable knockdown of DEAR1 in immortalized human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) recapitulated the growth in 3D culture of breast cancer cell lines containing mutated DEAR1, in that shDEAR1 clones demonstrated disruption of tissue architecture, loss of apical basal polarity, diffuse apoptosis, and failure of lumen formation. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining of a tissue microarray from a cohort of 123 young female breast cancer patients with a 20-year follow-up indicated that in early-onset breast cancer, DEAR1 expression serves as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival and correlates significantly with strong family history of breast cancer and the triple-negative phenotype (ER−, PR−, HER-2−) of breast cancers with poor prognosis.
Conclusions
Our data provide compelling evidence for the genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 in breast cancer, for the functional role of DEAR1 in the dominant regulation of acinar morphogenesis in 3D culture, and for the potential utility of an immunohistochemical assay for DEAR1 expression as an independent prognostic marker for stratification of early-onset disease.
Editors' Summary
Background
Each year, more than one million women discover that they have breast cancer. This type of cancer begins when cells in the breast that line the milk-producing glands or the tubes that take the milk to the nipples (glandular and ductal epithelial cells, respectively) acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make patients very ill. Generally speaking, the outlook for women with breast cancer is good. In the US, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although breast cancer is usually diagnosed in women in their 50s or 60s, some women develop breast cancer much earlier. In these women, the disease is often very aggressive. Compared to older women, young women with breast cancer have a lower overall survival rate and their cancer is more likely to recur locally or to metastasize. It would be useful to be able to recognize those younger women at the greatest risk of cancer recurrence so that they could be offered intensive surveillance and adjuvant therapy; those women at a lower risk could have gentler treatments. To achieve this type of “stratification,” the genetic changes that underlie breast cancer in young women need to be identified. In this study, the researchers discover a gene that is genetically altered (by mutations or deletion) in early-onset breast cancer and then investigate whether its expression can predict outcomes in women with this disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “suppression subtractive hybridization” to identify a new gene in a region of human Chromosome 1 where loss of heterozygosity (LOH; a genetic alteration associated with cancer development) frequently occurs. They called the gene DEAR1 (ductal epithelium-associated RING Chromosome 1) to indicate that it is expressed in ductal and glandular epithelial cells and encodes a “RING finger” protein (specifically, a subtype called a TRIM protein; RING finger proteins such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been implicated in early cancer development and in a large fraction of inherited breast cancers). DEAR1 expression was reduced or lost in several ductal carcinomas in situ (a local abnormality that can develop into breast cancer) and advanced breast cancers, the researchers report. Furthermore, many breast tumors carried DEAR1 missense mutations (genetic changes that interfere with the normal function of the DEAR1 protein) or had lost both copies of DEAR1 (the human genome contains two copies of most genes). To determine the function of DEAR1, the researchers replaced a normal copy of DEAR1 into a breast cancer cell that had a mutation in DEAR1. They then examined the growth of these genetically manipulated cells in special three-dimensional cultures. The breast cancer cells without DEAR1 grew rapidly without an organized structure while the breast cancer cells containing the introduced copy of DEAR1 formed structures that resembled normal breast acini (sac-like structures that secrete milk). In normal human mammary epithelial cells, the researchers silenced DEAR1 expression and also showed that without DEAR1, the normal mammary cells lost their ability to form proper acini. Finally, the researchers report that DEAR1 expression (detected “immunohistochemically”) was frequently lost in women who had had early-onset breast cancer and that the loss of DEAR1 expression correlated with reduced local recurrence-free survival, a strong family history of breast cancer and with a breast cancer subtype that has a poor outcome.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 are common in breast cancer. Although laboratory experiments may not necessarily reflect what happens in people, the results from the three-dimensional culture of breast epithelial cells suggest that DEAR1 may regulate the normal acinar structure of the breast. Consequently, loss of DEAR1 expression could be an early event in breast cancer development. Most importantly, the correlation between DEAR1 expression and both local recurrence in early-onset breast cancer and a breast cancer subtype with a poor outcome suggests that it might be possible to use DEAR1 expression to identify women with early-onset breast cancer who have an increased risk of local recurrence so that they get the most appropriate treatment for their cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000068.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Senthil Muthuswamy
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, including information on genetic alterations in breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; MedlinePlus also provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
The UK charities Cancerbackup (now merged with MacMillan Cancer Support) and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000068
PMCID: PMC2673042  PMID: 19536326
2.  Age at Diagnosis and Breast Cancer Survival in Iran 
Background. Tumour characteristics are the most important prognostic factors in breast cancer. Patient-related factors such as young age at diagnosis, obesity, and smoking behaviour may also modify disease outcome. Due to the absence of a unique definition for “young age breast cancer” and the resulting variation in disease management, findings on the association between young age and prognosis of breast cancer are controversial. Methods. This study included 1500 patients with a primary diagnosis of breast cancer in six Iranian hospitals from 5 provinces. We modelled the relative excess risk (RER) of breast cancer death to age at diagnosis and tumour characteristics. Results. Excess risks of death were observed for stage IV disease and poorly differentiated tumours: RER of 4.3 (95% CI: 1.05–17.65) and 3.4 (95% CI: 1.17–9.87), respectively. “Older” patients, particularly those aged 50 and over, presented more often with advanced and poorly differentiated tumours (P = 0.001). After adjustment for stage, histological grade, Her-2 expression, estrogen and progesterone receptors, and place of residency, breast cancer mortality was not significantly different across age groups. Conclusion. We conclude that there is no prognostic effect of age at diagnosis of breast cancer among breast cancer patients treated at cancer centres in different parts of Iran; young and relatively old women have similar risks of dying from breast cancer.
doi:10.1155/2012/517976
PMCID: PMC3512268  PMID: 23227345
3.  Association between Melanocytic Nevi and Risk of Breast Diseases: The French E3N Prospective Cohort 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001660.
Using data from the French E3N prospective cohort, Marina Kvaskoff and colleagues examine the association between number of cutaneous nevi and the risk for breast cancer.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
While melanocytic nevi have been associated with genetic factors and childhood sun exposure, several observations also suggest a potential hormonal influence on nevi. To test the hypothesis that nevi are associated with breast tumor risk, we explored the relationships between number of nevi and benign and malignant breast disease risk.
Methods and Findings
We prospectively analyzed data from E3N, a cohort of French women aged 40–65 y at inclusion in 1990. Number of nevi was collected at inclusion. Hazard ratios (HRs) for breast cancer and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using Cox proportional hazards regression models. Associations of number of nevi with personal history of benign breast disease (BBD) and family history of breast cancer were estimated using logistic regression. Over the period 15 June 1990–15 June 2008, 5,956 incident breast cancer cases (including 5,245 invasive tumors) were ascertained among 89,902 women. In models adjusted for age, education, and known breast cancer risk factors, women with “very many” nevi had a significantly higher breast cancer risk (HR = 1.13, 95% CI = 1.01–1.27 versus “none”; ptrend = 0.04), although significance was lost after adjustment for personal history of BBD or family history of breast cancer. The 10-y absolute risk of invasive breast cancer increased from 3,749 per 100,000 women without nevi to 4,124 (95% CI = 3,674–4,649) per 100,000 women with “very many” nevi. The association was restricted to premenopausal women (HR = 1.40, ptrend = 0.01), even after full adjustment (HR = 1.34, ptrend = 0.03; phomogeneity = 0.04), but did not differ according to breast cancer type or hormone receptor status. In addition, we observed significantly positive dose–response relationships between number of nevi and history of biopsy-confirmed BBD (n = 5,169; ptrend<0.0001) and family history of breast cancer in first-degree relatives (n = 7,472; ptrend = 0.0003). The main limitations of our study include self-report of number of nevi using a qualitative scale, and self-reported history of biopsied BBD.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest associations between number of nevi and the risk of premenopausal breast cancer, BBD, and family history of breast cancer. More research is warranted to elucidate these relationships and to understand their underlying mechanisms.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2012, nearly 1.7 million women worldwide discovered they had breast cancer, and about half a million women died from the disease. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). Uncontrolled cell division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump, or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. Because the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of some tumors, drugs that block hormone receptors are also used to treat receptor-positive breast cancer. Nowadays, the prognosis (outlook) for women with breast cancer is good, and in developed countries, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several hormone-related factors affect a woman's chances of developing breast cancer. For example, women who have no children or who have them late in life have a higher breast cancer risk than women who have several children when they are young because pregnancy alters sex hormone levels. Interestingly, the development of moles (nevi)—dark skin blemishes that are risk factors for the development of melanoma, a type of skin cancer—may also be affected by estrogen and progesterone. Thus, the number of nevi might be a marker of blood hormone levels and might predict breast cancer risk. In this prospective cohort study, the researchers test this hypothesis by investigating the association between how many moles a woman has and her breast cancer risk. A prospective cohort study enrolls a group (cohort) of people, determines their baseline characteristics, and follows them over time to see which characteristics are associated with the development of specific diseases.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In 1990, the E3N prospective cohort study enrolled nearly 100,000 French women (mainly school teachers) aged 40–65 years to investigate cancer risk factors. The women completed a baseline questionnaire about their lifestyle and medical history, and regular follow-up questionnaires that asked about cancer occurrence. In the initial questionnaire, the women indicated whether they had no, a few, many, or very many moles. Between 1990 and 2008, nearly 6,000 women in the cohort developed breast cancer. Using statistical methods to calculate hazard ratios (an “HR” compares how often a particular event happens in two groups with different characteristics; an HR greater than one indicates that a specific characteristic is associated with an increased risk of the event), the researchers report that women with “very many” nevi had a significantly higher breast cancer risk (a higher risk that was unlikely to have occurred by chance) than women with no nevi. Specifically, the age-adjusted HR for breast cancer among women with “very many” nevi compared to women with no nevi was 1.17. After adjustment for a personal history of benign (noncancerous) breast disease and a family history of breast cancer (two established risk factors for breast cancer), the association between nevi and breast cancer risk among the whole cohort became nonsignificant. Notably, however, the association among only premenopausal women remained significant after full adjustment (HR = 1.34), which corresponded to an increase in ten-year absolute risk of invasive breast cancer from 2,515 per 100,000 women with no nevi to 3,370 per 100,000 women with “very many” nevi.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that among premenopausal women there is a modest association between nevi number and breast cancer risk. This noncausal relationship may indicate that nevi and breast diseases are affected in similar ways by hormones or share common genetic factors, but the accuracy of these findings may be limited by aspects of the study design. For example, self-report of nevi numbers using a qualitative scale may have introduced some inaccuracies into the estimates of the association between nevi number and breast cancer risk. Most importantly, these findings are insufficient to support the use of nevi counts in breast cancer screening or diagnosis. Rather, together with the findings reported by Zhang et al. in an independent PLOS Medicine Research Article, they suggest that further studies into the biological mechanisms underlying the relationship between nevi and breast cancer and the association itself should be undertaken.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001660.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Fuhrman and Cardenas
An independent PLOS Medicine Research Article by Zhang et al. also investigates the relationship between nevi number and breast cancer risk
The US National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information for patients and professionals about breast cancer; it also has a fact sheet on moles
Cancer Research UK, a not-for profit organization, provides information about cancer, including detailed information on breast cancer
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer; the not-for profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer
More information about the E3N prospective cohort study is available; detailed information is available in French
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001660
PMCID: PMC4051602  PMID: 24915306
4.  Screening Mammography for Women Aged 40 to 49 Years at Average Risk for Breast Cancer 
Executive Summary
Objective
The aim of this review was to determine the effectiveness of screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years at average risk for breast cancer.
Clinical Need
The effectiveness of screening mammography in women aged over 50 years has been established, yet the issue of screening in women aged 40 to 49 years is still unsettled. The Canadian Task Force of Preventive Services, which sets guidelines for screening mammography for all provinces, supports neither the inclusion nor the exclusion of this screening procedure for 40- to 49-year-old women from the periodic health examination. In addition to this, 2 separate reviews, one conducted in Quebec in 2005 and the other in Alberta in 2000, each concluded that there is an absence of convincing evidence on the effectiveness of screening mammography for women in this age group who are at average risk for breast cancer.
In the United States, there is disagreement among organizations on whether population-based mammography should begin at the age of 40 or 50 years. The National Institutes of Health, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend against screening women in their 40s, whereas the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screening mammograms for women aged 40 to 49 years. Furthermore, in comparing screening guidelines between Canada and the United States, it is also important to recognize that “standard care” within a socialized medical system such as Canada’s differs from that of the United States. The National Breast Screening Study (NBSS-1), a randomized screening trial conducted in multiple centres across Canada, has shown there is no benefit in mortality from breast cancer from annual mammograms in women randomized between the ages of 40 and 49, relative to standard care (i.e. physical exam and teaching of breast-self examination on entry to the study, with usual community care thereafter).
At present, organized screening programs in Canada systematically screen women starting at 50 years of age, although with a physician’s referral, a screening mammogram is an insured service in Ontario for women under 50 years of age.
International estimates of the epidemiology of breast cancer show that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing for all ages combined, whereas mortality is decreasing, though at a slower rate. These decreasing mortality rates may be attributed to screening and advances in breast cancer therapy over time. Decreases in mortality attributable to screening may be a result of the earlier detection and treatment of invasive cancers, in addition to the increased detection of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), of which certain subpathologies are less lethal. Evidence from the SEER cancer registry in the United States indicates that the age-adjusted incidence of DCIS has increased almost 10-fold over a 20-year period (from 2.7 to 25 per 100,000).
The incidence of breast cancer is lower in women aged 40 to 49 years than in women aged 50 to 69 years (about 140 per 100,000 versus 500 per 100,000 women, respectively), as is the sensitivity (about 75% versus 85% for women aged under and over 50, respectively) and specificity of mammography (about 80% versus 90% for women aged under and over 50, respectively). The increased density of breast tissue in younger women is mainly responsible for the lower accuracy of this procedure in this age group. In addition, as the proportion of breast cancers that occur before the age of 50 are more likely to be associated with genetic predisposition as compared with those diagnosed in women after the age of 50, mammography may not be an optimal screening method for younger women.
Treatment options vary with the stage of disease (based on tumor size, involvement of surrounding tissue, and number of affected axillary lymph nodes) and its pathology, and may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy.
Surgery is the first-line intervention for biopsy confirmed tumours. The subsequent use of radiation, chemotherapy, or hormonal treatments is dependent on the histopathologic characteristics of the tumor and the type of surgery. There is controversy regarding the optimal treatment of DCIS, which is noninvasive.
With such controversy as to the effectiveness of mammography and the potential risk associated with women being overtreated or actual cancers being missed, and the increased risk of breast cancer associated with exposure to annual mammograms over a 10-year period, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee requested this review of screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years at average risk for breast cancer. This review is the first of 2 parts and concentrates on the effectiveness of screening mammography (i.e., film mammography, FM) for women at average risk aged 40 to 49 years. The second part will be an evaluation of screening by either magnetic resonance imaging or digital mammography, with the objective of determining the optimal screening modality in these younger women.
Review Strategy
The following questions were asked:
Does screening mammography for women aged 40 to 49 years who are at average risk for breast cancer reduce breast cancer mortality?
What is the sensitivity and specificity of mammography for this age group?
What are the risks associated with annual screening from ages 40 to 49?
What are the risks associated with false positive and false negative mammography results?
What are the economic considerations if evidence for effectiveness is established?
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and searched these electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment.
Keywords used in the search were breast cancer, breast neoplasms, mass screening, and mammography.
In total, the search yielded 6,359 articles specific to breast cancer screening and mammography. This did not include reports on diagnostic mammograms. The search was further restricted to English-language randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews, and meta-analyses published between 1995 and 2005. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, and letters, which narrowed the results to 516 articles and previous health technology policy assessments.
These were examined against the criteria outlined below. This resulted in the inclusion of 5 health technology assessments, the Canadian Preventive Services Task Force report, the United States Preventive Services Task Force report, 1 Cochrane review, and 8 RCTs.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English and French-language health technology policy assessments, conducted by other organizations, from 1995 to 2005
Articles specific to RCTs of screening mammography of women at average risk for breast cancer that included results for women randomized to studies between the ages of 40 and 49 years
Studies in which women were randomized to screening with or without mammography, although women may have had clinical breast examinations and/or may have been conducting breast self-examination.
UK Age Trial results published in December 2006.
Exclusion Criteria
Observational studies, including those nested within RCTs
RCTs that do not include results on women between the ages of 40 and 49 at randomization
Studies in which mammography was compared with other radiologic screening modalities, for example, digital mammography, magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasound.
Studies in which women randomized had a personal history of breast cancer.
Intervention
Film mammography
Comparators
Within RCTs, the comparison group would have been women randomized to not undergo screening mammography, although they may have had clinical breast examinations and/or have been conducting breast self-examination.
Outcomes of Interest
Breast cancer mortality
Summary of Findings
There is Level 1 Canadian evidence that screening women between the ages of 40 and 49 years who are at average risk for breast cancer is not effective, and that the absence of a benefit is sustained over a maximum follow-up period of 16 years.
All remaining studies that reported on women aged under 50 years were based on subset analyses. They provide additional evidence that, when all these RCTs are taken into account, there is no significant reduction in breast cancer mortality associated with screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years.
Conclusions
There is Level 1 evidence that screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years at average risk for breast cancer is not effective in reducing mortality.
Moreover, risks associated with exposure to mammographic radiation, the increased risk of missed cancers due to lower mammographic sensitivity, and the psychological impact of false positives, are not inconsequential.
The UK Age Trial results published in December 2006 did not change these conclusions.
PMCID: PMC3377515  PMID: 23074501
5.  Sex Differences in Colorectal Cancer Survival: Population-Based Analysis of 164,996 Colorectal Cancer Patients in Germany 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68077.
Risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) is considerably higher in men compared to women; however, there is inconclusive evidence of sex differences in CRC prognosis. We aimed to assess and explain sex differences in 5-year relative survival using standard and model-based period analysis among 164,996 patients diagnosed with CRC from 1997 to 2006 and reported to 11 German cancer registries covering a population of 33 million inhabitants. Age-adjusted 5-year relative survival was higher in women (64.5% vs. 61.9%, P<0.0001). A substantial survival advantage of women was confirmed in multivariate analysis after adjusting for CRC stage and subsite in subjects under 65 years of age (relative excess risk, RER 0.86, 95% CI 0.82–0.90), but not in older subjects (RER 1.01, 95% CI 0.98–1.04); this pattern was similar in the 1st and in the 2nd to 5th year after diagnosis. The survival advantage of women varied by CRC stage and age and was most pronounced for localized disease (RERs 0.59–0.88 in various age subgroups) and in patients under 45 years of age (RERs 0.59, 0.72 and 0.76 in patients with localized, regional or advanced disease, respectively). On the contrary, sex differences in survival did not vary by location of CRC. In conclusion, our large population-based study confirmed a survival advantage of female compared to male CRC patients, most notably in young and middle aged patients and patients with localized disease. The effect of sex hormones, either endogenous or through hormonal replacement therapy, might be the most plausible explanation for the observed patterns.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068077
PMCID: PMC3702575  PMID: 23861851
6.  Do Asian breast cancer patients have poorer survival than their western counterparts? A comparison between Singapore and Stockholm 
Introduction
The difference in breast cancer incidence and prognosis between ethnic groups seeks an explanation. We have recently shown that Swedish women are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer compared with Singaporean women. In the present paper, we compare breast cancer survival in the two countries.
Methods
We compared the survival of 10,287 Singaporean women and 17,090 Swedish women with breast cancer. Relative survival ratios were used to describe the prognosis in the two populations. A Poisson regression model was used to calculate relative risks for different follow-up periods, age groups, time of diagnosis and disease stages.
Results
The majority of the Swedish women had local cancer (80%) compared with Singaporean women (51%). The overall 5-year relative survival of the Swedish women appeared better (80%) than that of the Singaporean women (70%). A similar survival pattern was observed, however, between the two countries in a stage-by-stage comparison. Survival improved for all women in Singapore over the two decades, but only in the premenopausal women in Stockholm. In 1980 to 1989, premenopausal Singaporean women had 27% increased risk of death compared with Swedish women, adjusted for stage and year of follow-up, while the postmenopausal women had 48% increased risk. In 1990 to 1999, this risk decreased by 19% and 22% for the premenopausal and postmenopausal Singaporean women compared with the Swedish women.
Conclusions
The stage-dependent prognosis was similar for Singaporean women and for Swedish women. Singaporean women, both premenopausal and postmenopausal, had pronounced improvement in prognosis over the calendar periods, probably contributed by marked economic improvement, leading to better medical facilities and management with increased awareness of patients to diagnosis and treatment, as well as improved treatment options. Improvement seen only in the premenopausal women in Stockholm was probably due to improved treatment options.
doi:10.1186/bcr2219
PMCID: PMC2687707  PMID: 19166618
7.  Cancer Screening with Digital Mammography for Women at Average Risk for Breast Cancer, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for Women at High Risk 
Executive Summary
Objective
The purpose of this review is to determine the effectiveness of 2 separate modalities, digital mammography (DM) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), relative to film mammography (FM), in the screening of women asymptomatic for breast cancer. A third analysis assesses the effectiveness and safety of the combination of MRI plus mammography (MRI plus FM) in screening of women at high risk. An economic analysis was also conducted.
Research Questions
How does the sensitivity and specificity of DM compare to FM?
How does the sensitivity and specificity of MRI compare to FM?
How do the recall rates compare among these screening modalities, and what effect might this have on radiation exposure? What are the risks associated with radiation exposure?
How does the sensitivity and specificity of the combination of MRI plus FM compare to either MRI or FM alone?
What are the economic considerations?
Clinical Need
The effectiveness of FM with respect to breast cancer mortality in the screening of asymptomatic average- risk women over the age of 50 has been established. However, based on a Medical Advisory Secretariat review completed in March 2006, screening is not recommended for women between the ages of 40 and 49 years. Guidelines published by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Care recommend mammography screening every 1 to 2 years for women aged 50 years and over, hence, the inclusion of such women in organized breast cancer screening programs. In addition to the uncertainty of the effectiveness of mammography screening from the age of 40 years, there is concern over the risks associated with mammographic screening for the 10 years between the ages of 40 and 49 years.
The lack of effectiveness of mammography screening starting at the age of 40 years (with respect to breast cancer mortality) is based on the assumption that the ability to detect cancer decreases with increased breast tissue density. As breast density is highest in the premenopausal years (approximately 23% of postmenopausal and 53% of premenopausal women having at least 50% of the breast occupied by high density), mammography screening is not promoted in Canada nor in many other countries for women under the age of 50 at average risk for breast cancer. It is important to note, however, that screening of premenopausal women (i.e., younger than 50 years of age) at high risk for breast cancer by virtue of a family history of cancer or a known genetic predisposition (e.g., having tested positive for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and/or BRCA2) is appropriate. Thus, this review will assess the effectiveness of breast cancer screening with modalities other than film mammography, specifically DM and MRI, for both pre/perimenopausal and postmenopausal age groups.
International estimates of the epidemiology of breast cancer show that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing for all ages combined whereas mortality is decreasing, though at a slower rate. The observed decreases in mortality rates may be attributable to screening, in addition to advances in breast cancer therapy over time. Decreases in mortality attributable to screening may be a result of the earlier detection and treatment of invasive cancers, in addition to the increased detection of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), of which certain subpathologies are less lethal. Evidence from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (better known as SEER) cancer registry in the United States, indicates that the age-adjusted incidence of DCIS has increased almost 10-fold over a 20 year period, from 2.7 to 25 per 100,000.
There is a 4-fold lower incidence of breast cancer in the 40 to 49 year age group than in the 50 to 69 year age group (approximately 140 per 100,000 versus 500 per 100,000 women, respectively). The sensitivity of FM is also lower among younger women (approximately 75%) than for women aged over 50 years (approximately 85%). Specificity is approximately 80% for younger women versus 90% for women over 50 years. The increased density of breast tissue in younger women is likely responsible for the decreased accuracy of FM.
Treatment options for breast cancer vary with the stage of disease (based on tumor size, involvement of surrounding tissue, and number of affected axillary lymph nodes) and its pathology, and may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. Surgery is the first-line intervention for biopsy-confirmed tumors. The subsequent use of radiation, chemotherapy or hormonal treatments is dependent on the histopathologic characteristics of the tumor and the type of surgery. There is controversy regarding the optimal treatment of DCIS, which is considered a noninvasive tumour.
Women at high risk for breast cancer are defined as genetic carriers of the more commonly known breast cancer genes (BRCA1, BRCA2 TP53), first degree relatives of carriers, women with varying degrees of high risk family histories, and/or women with greater than 20% lifetime risk for breast cancer based on existing risk models. Genetic carriers for this disease, primarily women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, have a lifetime probability of approximately 85% of developing breast cancer. Preventive options for these women include surgical interventions such as prophylactic mastectomy and/or oophorectomy, i.e., removal of the breasts and/or ovaries. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the benefits and risks of different screening modalities, to identify additional options for these women.
This Medical Advisory Secretariat review is the second of 2 parts on breast cancer screening, and concentrates on the evaluation of both DM and MRI relative to FM, the standard of care. Part I of this review (March 2006) addressed the effectiveness of screening mammography in 40 to 49 year old average-risk women. The overall objective of the present review is to determine the optimal screening modality based on the evidence.
Evidence Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database. The subject headings and keywords searched included breast cancer, breast neoplasms, mass screening, digital mammography, magnetic resonance imaging. The detailed search strategies can be viewed in Appendix 1.
Included in this review are articles specific to screening and do not include evidence on diagnostic mammography. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1996 and April 2006. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters.
Digital Mammography: In total, 224 articles specific to DM screening were identified. These were examined against the inclusion/exclusion criteria described below, resulting in the selection and review of 5 health technology assessments (HTAs) (plus 1 update) and 4 articles specific to screening with DM.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: In total, 193 articles specific to MRI were identified. These were examined against the inclusion/exclusion criteria described below, resulting in the selection and review of 2 HTAs and 7 articles specific to screening with MRI.
The evaluation of the addition of FM to MRI in the screening of women at high risk for breast cancer was also conducted within the context of standard search procedures of the Medical Advisory Secretariat. as outlined above. The subject headings and keywords searched included the concepts of breast cancer, magnetic resonance imaging, mass screening, and high risk/predisposition to breast cancer. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between September 2007 and January 15, 2010. Case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters were not excluded.
MRI plus mammography: In total, 243 articles specific to MRI plus FM screening were identified. These were examined against the inclusion/exclusion criteria described below, resulting in the selection and review of 2 previous HTAs, and 1 systematic review of 11 paired design studies.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 1996 to April 2006, inclusive.
Articles specific to screening of women with no personal history of breast cancer.
Studies in which DM or MRI were compared with FM, and where the specific outcomes of interest were reported.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or paired studies only for assessment of DM.
Prospective, paired studies only for assessment of MRI.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies in which outcomes were not specific to those of interest in this report.
Studies in which women had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer.
Studies in which the intervention (DM or MRI) was not compared with FM.
Studies assessing DM with a sample size of less than 500.
Intervention
Digital mammography.
Magnetic resonance imaging.
Comparator
Screening with film mammography.
Outcomes of Interest
Breast cancer mortality (although no studies were found with such long follow-up).
Sensitivity.
Specificity.
Recall rates.
Summary of Findings
Digital Mammography
There is moderate quality evidence that DM is significantly more sensitive than FM in the screening of asymptomatic women aged less than 50 years, those who are premenopausal or perimenopausal, and those with heterogeneously or extremely dense breast tissue (regardless of age).
It is not known what effect these differences in sensitivity will have on the more important effectiveness outcome measure of breast cancer mortality, as there was no evidence of such an assessment.
Other factors have been set out to promote DM, for example, issues of recall rates and reading and examination times. Our analysis did not show that recall rates were necessarily improved in DM, though examination times were lower than for FM. Other factors including storage and retrieval of screens were not the subject of this analysis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
There is moderate quality evidence that the sensitivity of MRI is significantly higher than that of FM in the screening of women at high risk for breast cancer based on genetic or familial factors, regardless of age.
Radiation Risk Review
Cancer Care Ontario conducted a review of the evidence on radiation risk in screening with mammography women at high risk for breast cancer. From this review of recent literature and risk assessment that considered the potential impact of screening mammography in cohorts of women who start screening at an earlier age or who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer due to genetic susceptibility, the following conclusions can be drawn:
For women over 50 years of age, the benefits of mammography greatly outweigh the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer irrespective of the level of a woman’s inherent breast cancer risk.
Annual mammography for women aged 30 – 39 years who carry a breast cancer susceptibility gene or who have a strong family breast cancer history (defined as a first degree relative diagnosed in their thirties) has a favourable benefit:risk ratio. Mammography is estimated to detect 16 to 18 breast cancer cases for every one induced by radiation (Table 1). Initiation of screening at age 35 for this same group would increase the benefit:risk ratio to an even more favourable level of 34-50 cases detected for each one potentially induced.
Mammography for women under 30 years of age has an unfavourable benefit:risk ratio due to the challenges of detecting cancer in younger breasts, the aggressiveness of cancers at this age, the potential for radiation susceptibility at younger ages and a greater cumulative radiation exposure.
Mammography when used in combination with MRI for women who carry a strong breast cancer susceptibility (e.g., BRCA1/2 carriers), which if begun at age 35 and continued for 35 years, may confer greatly improved benefit:risk ratios which were estimated to be about 220 to one.
While there is considerable uncertainty in the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer, the risk expressed in published studies is almost certainly conservative as the radiation dose absorbed by women receiving mammography recently has been substantially reduced by newer technology.
A CCO update of the mammography radiation risk literature for 2008 and 2009 gave rise to one article by Barrington de Gonzales et al. published in 2009 (Barrington de Gonzales et al., 2009, JNCI, vol. 101: 205-209). This article focuses on estimating the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer for mammographic screening of young women at high risk for breast cancer (with BRCA gene mutations). Based on an assumption of a 15% to 25% or less reduction in mortality from mammography in these high risk women, the authors conclude that such a reduction is not substantially greater than the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer mortality when screening before the age of 34 years. That is, there would be no net benefit from annual mammographic screening of BRCA mutation carriers at ages 25-29 years; the net benefit would be zero or small if screening occurs in 30-34 year olds, and there would be some net benefit at age 35 years or older.
The Addition of Mammography to Magnetic Resonance Imaging
The effects of the addition of FM to MRI screening of high risk women was also assessed, with inclusion and exclusion criteria as follows:
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles and English or French-language HTAs published from September 2007 to January 15, 2010.
Articles specific to screening of women at high risk for breast cancer, regardless of the definition of high risk.
Studies in which accuracy data for the combination of MRI plus FM are available to be compared to that of MRI and FM alone.
RCTs or prospective, paired studies only.
Studies in which women were previously diagnosed with breast cancer were also included.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies in which outcomes were not specific to those of interest in this report.
Studies in which there was insufficient data on the accuracy of MRI plus FM.
Intervention
Both MRI and FM.
Comparators
Screening with MRI alone and FM alone.
Outcomes of Interest
Sensitivity.
Specificity.
Summary of Findings
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Plus Mammography
Moderate GRADE Level Evidence that the sensitivity of MRI plus mammography is significantly higher than that of MRI or FM alone, although the specificity remains either unchanged or decreases in the screening of women at high risk for breast cancer based on genetic/familial factors, regardless of age.
These studies include women at high risk defined as BRCA1/2 or TP53 carriers, first degree relatives of carriers, women with varying degrees of high risk family histories, and/or >20% lifetime risk based on existing risk models. This definition of high risk accounts for approximately 2% of the female adult population in Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3377503  PMID: 23074406
8.  Association between Cutaneous Nevi and Breast Cancer in the Nurses' Health Study: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001659.
Using data from the Nurses' Health Study, Jiali Han and colleagues examine the association between number of cutaneous nevi and the risk for breast cancer.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Cutaneous nevi are suggested to be hormone-related. We hypothesized that the number of cutaneous nevi might be a phenotypic marker of plasma hormone levels and predict subsequent breast cancer risk.
Methods and Findings
We followed 74,523 female nurses for 24 y (1986–2010) in the Nurses' Health Study and estimate the relative risk of breast cancer according to the number of cutaneous nevi. We adjusted for the known breast cancer risk factors in the models. During follow-up, a total of 5,483 invasive breast cancer cases were diagnosed. Compared to women with no nevi, women with more cutaneous nevi had higher risks of breast cancer (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.04, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.98–1.10 for 1–5 nevi; 1.15, 95% CI, 1.00–1.31 for 6–14 nevi, and 1.35, 95% CI, 1.04–1.74 for 15 or more nevi; p for continuous trend = 0.003). Over 24 y of follow-up, the absolute risk of developing breast cancer increased from 8.48% for women without cutaneous nevi to 8.82% (95% CI, 8.31%–9.33%) for women with 1–5 nevi, 9.75% (95% CI, 8.48%–11.11%) for women with 6–14 nevi, and 11.4% (95% CI, 8.82%–14.76%) for women with 15 or more nevi. The number of cutaneous nevi was associated with increased risk of breast cancer only among estrogen receptor (ER)–positive tumors (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio per five nevi, 1.09, 95% CI, 1.02–1.16 for ER+/progesterone receptor [PR]–positive tumors; 1.08, 95% CI, 0.94–1.24 for ER+/PR− tumors; and 0.99, 95% CI, 0.86–1.15 for ER−/PR− tumors). Additionally, we tested plasma hormone levels according to the number of cutaneous nevi among a subgroup of postmenopausal women without postmenopausal hormone use (n = 611). Postmenopausal women with six or more nevi had a 45.5% higher level of free estradiol and a 47.4% higher level of free testosterone compared to those with no nevi (p for trend = 0.001 for both). Among a subgroup of 362 breast cancer cases and 611 matched controls with plasma hormone measurements, the multivariable-adjusted odds ratio for every five nevi attenuated from 1.25 (95% CI, 0.89–1.74) to 1.16 (95% CI, 0.83–1.64) after adjusting for plasma hormone levels. Key limitations in this study are that cutaneous nevi were self-counted in our cohort and that the study was conducted in white individuals, and thus the findings do not necessarily apply to other populations.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that the number of cutaneous nevi may reflect plasma hormone levels and predict breast cancer risk independently of previously known factors.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably (which leads to the formation of a lump in the breast) and to move around the body (metastasize). The treatment of breast cancer, which is diagnosed using mammography (a breast X-ray) or manual breast examination and biopsy, usually involves surgery to remove the lump, or the whole breast (mastectomy) if the cancer has started to metastasize. After surgery, women often receive chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells and may also be given drugs that block the action of estrogen and progesterone, female sex hormones that stimulate the growth of some breast cancer cells. Globally, half a million women die from breast cancer each year. However, in developed countries, nearly 90% of women affected by breast cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several sex hormone–related factors affect breast cancer risk, including at what age a woman has her first child (pregnancy alters sex hormone levels) and her age at menopause, when estrogen levels normally drop. Moreover, postmenopausal women with high circulating levels of estrogen and testosterone (a male sex hormone) have an increased breast cancer risk. Interestingly, moles (nevi)—dark skin blemishes that are a risk factor for the development of melanoma, a type of skin cancer—often darken or enlarge during pregnancy. Might the number of nevi be a marker of hormone levels, and could nevi counts therefore be used to predict an individual's risk of breast cancer? In this prospective cohort study, the researchers look for an association between number of nevi and breast cancer risk among participants in the US Nurses' Health Study (NHS). A prospective cohort study enrolls a group of people, determines their baseline characteristics, and follows them over time to see which characteristics are associated with the development of certain diseases. The NHS, which enrolled 121,700 female nurses aged 30–55 years in 1976, is studying risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases in women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In 1986, nearly 75,000 NHS participants (all of whom were white) reported how many nevi they had on their left arm. Over the next 24 years, 5,483 invasive breast cancers were diagnosed in these women. Compared to women with no nevi, women with increasing numbers of nevi had a higher risk of breast cancer after adjustment for known breast cancer risk factors. Specifically, among women with 1–5 nevi, the hazard ratio (HR) for breast cancer was 1.04, whereas among women with 15 or more nevi the HR was 1.35. An HR compares how often a particular event occurs in two groups with different characteristics; an HR greater than one indicates that a specific characteristic is associated with an increased risk of the event. Over 24 years of follow-up, the absolute risk of developing breast cancer was 8.48% in women with no nevi but 11.4% for women with 15 or more nevi. Notably, postmenopausal women with six or more nevi had higher blood levels of estrogen and testosterone than women with no nevi. Finally, in a subgroup analysis, the association between number of nevi and breast cancer risk disappeared after adjustment for hormone levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings support the hypothesis that the number of nevi reflects sex hormone levels in women and may predict breast cancer risk. Notably, they show that the association between breast cancer risk and nevus number was independent of known risk factors for breast cancer, and that the risk of breast cancer increased with the number of nevi in a dose-dependent manner. These findings also suggest that a hormonal mechanism underlies the association between nevus number and breast cancer risk. Because this study involved only white participants, these findings may not apply to non-white women. Moreover, the use of self-reported data on nevus numbers may affect the accuracy of these findings. Finally, because this study is observational, these findings are insufficient to support any changes in clinical recommendations for breast cancer screening or diagnosis. Nevertheless, these data and those in an independent PLOS Medicine Research Article by Kvaskoff et al. support the need for further investigation of the association between nevi and breast cancer risk and of the mechanisms underlying this relationship.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001659.
An independent PLOS Medicine Research Article by Kvaskoff et al. also investigates the relationship between nevi and breast cancer risk
The US National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information for patients and professionals about breast cancer; it also has a fact sheet on moles
Cancer Research UK, a not-for profit organization, provides information about cancer, including detailed information on breast cancer
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer; the not-for profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer
More information about the Nurses' Health Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001659
PMCID: PMC4051600  PMID: 24915186
9.  Do Female Cancer Patients Display Better Survival Rates Compared with Males? Analysis of the Korean National Registry Data, 2005–2009 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52457.
Background
Sex differences have been reported in the prognosis of certain cancers. In this study, we investigated whether Korean females display better survival rates compared with male patients for solid tumor sites.
Methods
We analyzed data from the Korean National Cancer Incidence Database from 599,288 adult patients diagnosed with solid cancers between 2005 and 2009. Patients were followed until December 2010. We applied a relative excess risk (RER) model adjusting for year of follow-up, age at diagnosis, and stage at diagnosis.
Results
For all solid cancer sites combined, women displayed an 11% lower risk of death compared to men (RER 0.89; 95% CI 0.88–0.90) after adjusting for year of follow-up, age, stage, and case mix. Women showed significantly lower RERs for the following sites: head/neck, esophagus, small intestine, liver, nasal cavities, lung, bone/cartilages, melanoma of skin, soft tissue, brain and CNS, and thyroid. In contrast, women displayed a poorer prognosis than did men for colorectal, laryngeal, kidney and bladder cancer. However, the survival gaps between men and women narrowed by increase in age; female patients over 75 years of age displayed a 3% higher RER of death compared with males in this age group.
Conclusions
Female cancer patients display an improved survival for the majority of solid tumor sites, even after adjustment for age and stage. Age at diagnosis was the major contributor to the women’s survival advantage.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052457
PMCID: PMC3530449  PMID: 23300677
10.  Subtyping of Breast Cancer by Immunohistochemistry to Investigate a Relationship between Subtype and Short and Long Term Survival: A Collaborative Analysis of Data for 10,159 Cases from 12 Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000279.
Paul Pharoah and colleagues evaluate the prognostic significance of immunohistochemical subtype classification in more than 10,000 breast cancer cases with early disease, and examine the influence of a patient's survival time on the prediction of future survival.
Background
Immunohistochemical markers are often used to classify breast cancer into subtypes that are biologically distinct and behave differently. The aim of this study was to estimate mortality for patients with the major subtypes of breast cancer as classified using five immunohistochemical markers, to investigate patterns of mortality over time, and to test for heterogeneity by subtype.
Methods and Findings
We pooled data from more than 10,000 cases of invasive breast cancer from 12 studies that had collected information on hormone receptor status, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) status, and at least one basal marker (cytokeratin [CK]5/6 or epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR]) together with survival time data. Tumours were classified as luminal and nonluminal tumours according to hormone receptor expression. These two groups were further subdivided according to expression of HER2, and finally, the luminal and nonluminal HER2-negative tumours were categorised according to expression of basal markers. Changes in mortality rates over time differed by subtype. In women with luminal HER2-negative subtypes, mortality rates were constant over time, whereas mortality rates associated with the luminal HER2-positive and nonluminal subtypes tended to peak within 5 y of diagnosis and then decline over time. In the first 5 y after diagnosis the nonluminal tumours were associated with a poorer prognosis, but over longer follow-up times the prognosis was poorer in the luminal subtypes, with the worst prognosis at 15 y being in the luminal HER2-positive tumours. Basal marker expression distinguished the HER2-negative luminal and nonluminal tumours into different subtypes. These patterns were independent of any systemic adjuvant therapy.
Conclusions
The six subtypes of breast cancer defined by expression of five markers show distinct behaviours with important differences in short term and long term prognosis. Application of these markers in the clinical setting could have the potential to improve the targeting of adjuvant chemotherapy to those most likely to benefit. The different patterns of mortality over time also suggest important biological differences between the subtypes that may result in differences in response to specific therapies, and that stratification of breast cancers by clinically relevant subtypes in clinical trials is urgently required.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Each year, more than one million women discover they have breast cancer. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast's milk-producing glands or in the tubes (ducts) that take milk to the nipples acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled cell division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make women very ill. Generally speaking, the outlook (prognosis) for women with breast cancer is good. In the United States, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because there are several types of cells in the milk ducts and glands, there are several subtypes of breast cancer. Luminal tumors, for example, begin in the cells that line the ducts and glands and usually grow slowly; basal-type tumors arise in deeper layers of the ducts and glands and tend to grow quickly. Clinicians need to distinguish between different breast cancer subtypes so that they can give women a realistic prognosis and can give adjuvant treatments to those women who are most likely to benefit. One way to distinguish between different subtypes is to stain breast cancer samples using antibodies (immune system proteins) that recognize particular proteins (antigens). This “immunohistochemical” approach can identify several breast cancer subtypes but its prognostic value and the best way to classify breast tumors remains unclear. In this study, the researchers investigate the survival over time of women with six major subtypes of breast cancer classified using five immunohistochemical markers: the estrogen receptor and the progesterone receptor (two hormone receptors expressed by luminal cells), the human epidermal growth factors receptor-2 (HER2, a protein marker used to select specific adjuvant therapies), and CK5/6 and EGFR (proteins expressed by basal cells).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pooled data on survival time and on the expression of the five immunohistochemical markers from more than 10,000 cases of breast cancer from 12 studies. They then divided the tumors into six subtypes on the basis of their marker expression: luminal (hormone receptor-positive), HER2-positive tumors; luminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-positive tumors; luminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-negative tumors; nonluminal (hormone receptor-negative), HER2-positive tumors; nonluminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-positive tumors; and nonluminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-negative tumors. In the first five years after diagnosis, women with nonluminal tumor subtypes had the worst prognosis but at 15 years after diagnosis, women with luminal HER2-positive tumors had the worst prognosis. Furthermore, death rates (the percentage of affected women dying each year) differed by subtype over time. Thus, women with the two luminal HER2-negative subtypes were as likely to die soon after diagnosis as at later times whereas the death rates associated with nonluminal subtypes peaked within five years of diagnosis and then declined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings indicate that the six subtypes of breast cancer defined by the expression of five immunohistochemical markers have distinct biological characteristics that are associated with important differences in short-term and long-term outcomes. Because different laboratories measured the immunohistochemical markers using different methods, it is possible that some of the tumors included in this study were misclassified. However, the finding of clear differences in the behavior of the immunochemically classified subtypes suggests that the use of the five markers for tumor classification might be robust enough for routine clinical practice. The application of these markers in the clinical setting, suggest the researchers, could improve the targeting of adjuvant therapies to those women most likely to benefit. Furthermore, note the researchers, these findings strongly suggest that subtype-specific responses should be evaluated in future clinical trials of treatments for breast cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000279.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Stefan Ambs
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The American Cancer Society has a detailed guide to breast cancer, which includes information on the immunochemical classification of breast cancer subtypes
The UK charities MacMillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; Medline Plus provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000279
PMCID: PMC2876119  PMID: 20520800
11.  Factors influencing the effect of age on prognosis in breast cancer: population based study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2000;320(7233):474-479.
Objective
To investigate whether young age at diagnosis is a negative prognostic factor in primary breast cancer and how stage of disease at diagnosis and treatment influences such an association.
Design
Retrospective cohort study based on a population based database of patients with breast cancer containing detailed information on tumour characteristics, treatment regimens, and survival.
Setting
Denmark.
Subjects
10 356 women with primary breast cancer who were less than 50 years old at diagnosis.
Main outcome measures
Relative risk of dying within the first 10 years after diagnosis according to age at diagnosis after adjustment for known prognostic factors and expected mortality.
Results
Overall, young women with low risk disease who did not receive adjuvant treatment had a significantly increased risk of dying; risk increased with decreasing age at diagnosis (adjusted relative risk: 45-49 years (reference): 1; 40-44 years: 1.12 (95% confidence interval 0.89 to 1.40); 35-39 years: 1.40 (1.10 to 1.78); <35 years: 2.18 (1.64 to 2.89). However, no similar trend was seen in patients who received adjuvant cytotoxic treatment. The increased risk in younger women who did not receive adjuvant treatment compared with those who did remained when women were grouped according to presence of node negative disease and by tumour size.
Conclusion
The negative prognostic effect of young age is almost exclusively seen in women diagnosed with low risk disease who did not receive adjuvant cytotoxic treatment. These results suggest that young women with breast cancer, on the basis of age alone, should be regarded as high risk patients and be given adjuvant cytotoxic treatment.
PMCID: PMC27289  PMID: 10678859
12.  Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of published literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Ecopnomic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Objective
To review and synthesize the available evidence regarding the laboratory performance, prognostic value, and predictive value of Oncotype-DX for the target population.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
The target population of this review is women with newly diagnosed early stage (stage I–IIIa) invasive breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and/or progesterone-receptor (PR) positive. Much of this review, however, is relevant for women with early stage (I and II) invasive breast cancer that is specifically ER positive, lymph node (LN) negative and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2/neu) negative. This refined population represents an estimated incident population of 3,315 new breast cancers in Ontario (according to 2007 data). Currently it is estimated that only 15% of these women will develop a distant metastasis at 10 years; however, a far great proportion currently receive adjuvant chemotherapy, suggesting that more women are being treated with chemotherapy than can benefit. There is therefore a need to develop better prognostic and predictive tools to improve the selection of women that may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
Technology of Concern
The Oncotype-DX Breast Cancer Assay (Genomic Health, Redwood City, CA) quantifies gene expression for 21 genes in breast cancer tissue by performing reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumour blocks that are obtained during initial surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, or core biopsy) of women with early breast cancer that is newly diagnosed. The panel of 21 genes include genes associated with tumour proliferation and invasion, as well as other genes related to HER-2/neu expression, ER expression, and progesterone receptor (PR) expression.
Research Questions
What is the laboratory performance of Oncotype-DX?
How reliable is Oncotype-DX (i.e., how repeatable and reproducible is Oncotype-DX)?
How often does Oncotype-DX fail to give a useable result?
What is the prognostic value of Oncotype-DX?*
Is Oncotype-DX recurrence score associated with the risk of distant recurrence or death due to any cause in women with early breast cancer receiving tamoxifen?
What is the predictive value of Oncotype-DX?*
Does Oncoytpe-DX recurrence score predict significant benefit in terms of improvements in 10-year distant recurrence or death due to any cause for women receiving tamoxifen plus chemotherapy in comparison to women receiving tamoxifen alone?
How does Oncotype-DX compare to other known predictors of risk such as Adjuvant! Online?
How does Oncotype-DX impact patient quality of life and clinical/patient decision-making?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on March 19th, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1st, 2006 to March 19th, 2010. A starting search date of January 1st, 2006 was because a comprehensive systematic review of Oncotype-DX was identified in preliminary literature searching. This systematic review, by Marchionni et al. (2008), included literature up to January 1st, 2007. All studies identified in the review by Marchionni et al. as well as those identified in updated literature searching were used to form the evidentiary base of this review. The quality of the overall body of evidence was identified as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Inclusion Criteria
Any observational trial, controlled clinical trial, randomized controlled trial (RCT), meta-analysis or systematic review that reported on the laboratory performance, prognostic value and/or predictive value of Oncotype-DX testing, or other outcome relevant to the Key Questions, specific to the target population was included.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that did not report original data or original data analysis,
Studies published in a language other than English,
Studies reported only in abstract or as poster presentations (such publications were not sought nor included in this review since the MAS does not generally consider evidence that is not subject to peer review nor does the MAS consider evidence that lacks detailed description of methodology).
Outcomes of Interest
Outcomes of interest varied depending on the Key Question. For the Key Questions of prognostic and predictive value (Key Questions #2 and #3), the prospectively defined primary outcome was risk of 10-year distant recurrence. The prospectively defined secondary outcome was 10-year death due to any cause (i.e., overall survival). All additional outcomes such as risk of locoregional recurrence or disease-free survival (DFS) were not prospectively determined for this review but were reported as presented in included trials; these outcomes are referenced as tertiary outcomes in this review. Outcomes for other Key Questions (i.e., Key Questions #1, #4 and #5) were not prospectively defined due to the variability in endpoints relevant for these questions.
Summary of Findings
A total of 26 studies were included. Of these 26 studies, only five studies were relevant to the primary questions of this review (Key Questions #2 and #3). The following conclusions were drawn from the entire body of evidence:
There is a lack of external validation to support the reliability of Oncotype-DX; however, the current available evidence derived from internal industry validation studies suggests that Oncotype-DX is reliable (i.e., Oncotype-DX is repeatable and reproducible).
Current available evidence suggests a moderate failure rate of Oncotype-DX testing; however, the failure rate observed across clinical trials included in this review is likely inflated; the current Ontario experience suggests an acceptably lower rate of test failure.
In women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer (stage I–II) that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node negative:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole (the latter for postmenopausal women only),
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX can predict which women will benefit from adjuvant CMF/MF chemotherapy in women being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
In postmenopausal women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node positive:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole,
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited predictive value for predicting which women will benefit from adjuvant CAF chemotherapy in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
There are methodological and statistical limitations that affect both the generalizability of the current available evidence, as well as the magnitude and statistical strength of the observed effect sizes; in particular:
Of the major predictive trials, Oncotype-DX scores were only produced for a small subset of women (<40% of the original randomized population) potentially disabling the effects of treatment randomization and opening the possibility of selection bias;
Data is not specific to HER-2/neu-negative women;
There were limitations with multivariate statistical analyses.
Additional trials of observational design may provide further validation of the prognostic and predictive value of Oncotype-DX; however, it is unlikely that prospective or randomized data will become available in the near future due to ethical, time and resource considerations.
There is currently insufficient evidence investigating how Oncoytpe-DX compares to other known prognostic estimators of risk, such as Adjuvant! Online, and there is insufficient evidence investigating how Oncotype-DX would impact clinician/patient decision-making in a setting generalizable to Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3382301  PMID: 23074401
13.  Are two-centimeter breast cancers large or small? 
Current Oncology  2013;20(4):205-211.
Background
Node-negative breast cancers from 2 cm to 5 cm in size are classified as stage ii, and smaller cancers, as stage i. We sought to determine if the prognosis of women with a breast cancer exactly 2 cm in size more closely resembles that of women with a stage i or a stage ii breast cancer.
Methods
Using a cohort of 4265 young women with breast cancer, we compared the 10-year breast cancer mortality rates for women who had a tumour 0.1–1.9 cm, exactly 2.0 cm, and 2.1–2.9 cm.
Results
In the first 3 years after diagnosis, the survival pattern of women with a 2.0-cm breast cancer was nearly identical to that of women with a larger cancer (2.1–3.0 cm). From year 3 to year 10, the relative survival of women with a 2.0-cm breast cancer was improved and nearly identical to that of women with a smaller cancer. The 10-year survival rate was 89.3% for women with tumours less than 20 mm, 86.1% for women with tumours equal to 20 mm, and 81.2% for women with 21-mm to 29-mm tumours.
Conclusions
For young women with small breast cancers, the relative mortality from breast cancer is dynamic with increasing tumour size and varies with time from diagnosis.
doi:10.3747/co.20.1364
PMCID: PMC3728051  PMID: 23904761
Breast cancer; stage; survival
14.  Birth Outcome in Women with Previously Treated Breast Cancer—A Population-Based Cohort Study from Sweden 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e336.
Background
Data on birth outcome and offspring health after the appearance of breast cancer are limited. The aim of this study was to assess the risk of adverse birth outcomes in women previously treated for invasive breast cancer compared with the general population of mothers.
Methods and Findings
Of all 2,870,932 singleton births registered in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry during 1973–2002, 331 first births following breast cancer surgery—with a mean time to pregnancy of 37 mo (range 7–163)—were identified using linkage with the Swedish Cancer Registry.
Logistic regression analysis was used. The estimates were adjusted for maternal age, parity, and year of delivery. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to estimate infant health and mortality, delivery complications, the risk of preterm birth, and the rates of instrumental delivery and cesarean section.
The large majority of births from women previously treated for breast cancer had no adverse events. However, births by women exposed to breast cancer were associated with an increased risk of delivery complications (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.9), cesarean section (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.0–1.7), very preterm birth (<32 wk) (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.7–6.0), and low birth weight (<1500 g) (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.4–5.8). A tendency towards an increased risk of malformations among the infants was seen especially in the later time period (1988–2002) (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.2–3.7).
Conclusions
It is reassuring that births overall were without adverse events, but our findings indicate that pregnancies in previously treated breast cancer patients should possibly be regarded as higher risk pregnancies, with consequences for their surveillance and management.
The large majority of births from women previously treated for breast cancer had no adverse events, but such pregnancies might benefit from increased surveillance and management.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More women of all ages are developing breast cancer than ever before. In the US, one woman in eight will now develop this disease during her lifetime. For most of these women, their breast cancer diagnosis will come late in life, but a fifth of breast cancers are diagnosed before the age of 50. These days, the long-term outlook for women with breast cancer is quite good; 80% of women who receive a diagnosis of breast cancer survive more than five years. These figures, together with a trend towards starting families later in life—since the late 1970s birth rates for women in their late 30s and 40s have more than doubled in the US, and in Sweden the average age for having a first baby is now 29 years—mean that many women who have had breast cancer want to have children. One estimate is that up to 7% of women who are fertile after treatment for breast cancer will later have children.
Why Was This Study Done?
Pregnancy seems to have no adverse affects on women who have had breast cancer—there is no evidence that pregnancy can trigger a relapse. However, little is known about whether the chemotherapy and radiotherapy used to treat breast cancer have any long-lasting effects that might result in a poor birth outcome such as stillbirth, low birth weight, premature delivery, or abnormalities in the baby (congenital abnormalities). In this study, the researchers assessed the risk of adverse birth outcomes in women previously treated for breast cancer in Sweden.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly three million singleton births that occurred between 1973 and 2002 are recorded in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry. The researchers linked this information with that in the Swedish Cancer Registry to identify 331 first births after treatment for invasive breast cancer (cancer that has spread from where it started to grow in the breast). The birth registry includes details on maternal age and health, child's birth weight, whether the delivery was preterm, and whether the child had any congenital abnormalities, so the researchers were able to compare birth outcomes in these 331 births with those in the general population. They discovered that most births after breast cancer treatment went smoothly. There was no increase in stillbirths, but there were slightly more delivery complications in the women who had had breast cancer than in the general population, and a slight increase in babies born prematurely or with low birth weight. Finally, a few more babies with congenital abnormalities were born to women after breast cancer treatment than to women in the general population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Overall, these results should reassure women who are thinking about having children after breast cancer about the health of their future offspring. However, they do suggest that these women may need careful monitoring during late pregnancy and delivery. This result was not predicted by the researchers who performed the study. Before starting the study, they thought that there would be no difference in birth outcomes between patients previously treated for breast cancer and the general population. Furthermore, a recently published similar study in Denmark found no increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, or congenital abnormalities after breast cancer. Differences between the two countries in the accuracy of their registries or in the use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments may account for this difference in results. Additional studies are now needed in other populations to resolve this discrepancy and to provide more information about how breast cancer treatment might affect birth outcomes. For example, the current study did not provide any information about whether specific chemotherapy regimens or different types of breast cancer might put women at a higher risk of adverse birth outcomes, or whether the time between the cancer diagnosis and treatment and the pregnancy made a difference.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030336.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on breast cancer
National Cancer Institute information for patients and physicians on breast cancer, including links to pages on breast cancer and pregnancy
Cancer Research UK's information on breast cancer for patients, and statistics on breast cancer in the UK
• Wikipedia page on breast cancer (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines for physicians on pregnancy and breast cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030336
PMCID: PMC1564170  PMID: 16968117
15.  Impact of breast cancer subtypes on 3-year survival among adolescent and young adult women 
Introduction
Young women have poorer survival after breast cancer than do older women. It is unclear whether this survival difference relates to the unique distribution of hormone receptor (HR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-defined molecular breast cancer subtypes among adolescent and young adult (AYA) women aged 15 to 39 years. The purpose of our study was to examine associations between breast cancer subtypes and short-term survival in AYA women, as well as to determine whether the distinct molecular subtype distribution among AYA women explains the unfavorable overall breast cancer survival statistics reported for AYA women compared with older women.
Methods
Data for 5,331 AYA breast cancers diagnosed between 2005 and 2009 were obtained from the California Cancer Registry. Survival by subtype (triple-negative; HR+/HER2-; HR+/HER2+; HR-/HER2+) and age-group (AYA versus 40- to 64-year-olds) was analyzed with Cox proportional hazards regression with follow-up through 2010.
Results
With up to 6 years of follow-up and a mean survival time of 3.1 years (SD = 1.5 years), AYA women diagnosed with HR-/HER + and triple-negative breast cancer experienced a 1.6-fold and 2.7-fold increased risk of death, respectively, from all causes (HR-/HER + hazard ratio: 1.55; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10 to 2.18; triple-negative HR: 2.75; 95% CI, 2.06 to 3.66) and breast cancer (HR-/HER + hazard ratio: 1.63; 95% CI, 1.12 to 2.36; triple-negative hazard ratio: 2.71; 95% CI, 1.98 to 3.71) than AYA women with HR+/HER2- breast cancer. AYA women who resided in lower socioeconomic status neighborhoods, had public health insurance, and were of Black, compared with White, race/ethnicity experienced worse survival. This race/ethnicity association was attenuated somewhat after adjusting for breast cancer subtypes (hazard ratio, 1.33; 95% CI, 0.98 to 1.82). AYA women had similar all-cause and breast cancer-specific short-term survival as older women for all breast cancer subtypes and across all stages of disease.
Conclusions
Among AYA women with breast cancer, short-term survival varied by breast cancer subtypes, with the distribution of breast cancer subtypes explaining some of the poorer survival observed among Black, compared with White, AYA women. Future studies should consider whether distribution of breast cancer subtypes and other factors, including differential receipt of treatment regimens, influences long-term survival in young compared with older women.
doi:10.1186/bcr3556
PMCID: PMC3978627  PMID: 24131591
16.  Breast cancer in young women and its impact on reproductive function 
Human Reproduction Update  2009;15(3):323-339.
BACKGROUND
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in developed countries, and 12% of breast cancer occurs in women 20–34 years. Survival from breast cancer has significantly improved, and the potential late effects of treatment and the impact on quality of life have become increasingly important. Young women constitute a minority of breast cancer patients, but commonly have distinct concerns and issues compared with older women, including queries regarding fertility, contraception and pregnancy. Further, they are more likely than older women to have questions regarding potential side effects of therapy and risk of relapse or a new primary. In addition, many will have symptoms associated with treatment and they present a management challenge. Reproductive medicine specialists and gynaecologists commonly see these women either shortly after initial diagnosis or following adjuvant therapy and should be aware of current management of breast cancer, the options for women at increased genetic risk, the prognosis of patients with early stage breast cancer and how adjuvant systemic treatments may impact reproductive function.
METHODS
No systematic literature search was done. The review focuses on the current management of breast cancer in young women and the impact of treatment on reproductive function and subsequent management. With reference to key studies and meta-analyses, we highlight controversies and current unanswered questions regarding patient management.
RESULTS
Chemotherapy for breast cancer is likely to negatively impact on reproductive function. A number of interventions are available which may increase the likelihood of future successful pregnancy, but the relative safety of these interventions is not well established. For those who do conceive following breast cancer, there is no good evidence that pregnancy is detrimental to survival. We review current treatment; effects on reproductive function; preservation of fertility; contraception; pregnancy; breastfeeding and management of menopausal symptoms following breast cancer.
CONCLUSION
This paper provides an update on the management of breast cancer in young women and is targeted at reproductive medicine specialists and gynaecologists.
doi:10.1093/humupd/dmn064
PMCID: PMC2667113  PMID: 19174449
breast cancer; fertility; contraception; pregnancy; menopause
17.  Risk Prediction for Breast, Endometrial, and Ovarian Cancer in White Women Aged 50 y or Older: Derivation and Validation from Population-Based Cohort Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001492.
Ruth Pfeiffer and colleagues describe models to calculate absolute risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers for white, non-Hispanic women over 50 years old using easily obtainable risk factors.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers share some hormonal and epidemiologic risk factors. While several models predict absolute risk of breast cancer, there are few models for ovarian cancer in the general population, and none for endometrial cancer.
Methods and Findings
Using data on white, non-Hispanic women aged 50+ y from two large population-based cohorts (the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial [PLCO] and the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study [NIH-AARP]), we estimated relative and attributable risks and combined them with age-specific US-population incidence and competing mortality rates. All models included parity. The breast cancer model additionally included estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) use, other MHT use, age at first live birth, menopausal status, age at menopause, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, benign breast disease/biopsies, alcohol consumption, and body mass index (BMI); the endometrial model included menopausal status, age at menopause, BMI, smoking, oral contraceptive use, MHT use, and an interaction term between BMI and MHT use; the ovarian model included oral contraceptive use, MHT use, and family history or breast or ovarian cancer. In independent validation data (Nurses' Health Study cohort) the breast and ovarian cancer models were well calibrated; expected to observed cancer ratios were 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.96–1.04) for breast cancer and 1.08 (95% CI: 0.97–1.19) for ovarian cancer. The number of endometrial cancers was significantly overestimated, expected/observed = 1.20 (95% CI: 1.11–1.29). The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUCs; discriminatory power) were 0.58 (95% CI: 0.57–0.59), 0.59 (95% CI: 0.56–0.63), and 0.68 (95% CI: 0.66–0.70) for the breast, ovarian, and endometrial models, respectively.
Conclusions
These models predict absolute risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers from easily obtainable risk factors and may assist in clinical decision-making. Limitations are the modest discriminatory ability of the breast and ovarian models and that these models may not generalize to women of other races.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, just three types of cancer accounted for 10% of global cancer-related deaths. That year, about 460,000 women died from breast cancer (the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death). Another 140,000 women died from ovarian cancer, and 74,000 died from endometrial (womb) cancer (the 14th and 20th most common causes of cancer-related death, respectively). Although these three cancers originate in different tissues, they nevertheless share many risk factors. For example, current age, age at menarche (first period), and parity (the number of children a woman has had) are all strongly associated with breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer risk. Because these cancers share many hormonal and epidemiological risk factors, a woman with a high breast cancer risk is also likely to have an above-average risk of developing ovarian or endometrial cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several statistical models (for example, the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool) have been developed that estimate a woman's absolute risk (probability) of developing breast cancer over the next few years or over her lifetime. Absolute risk prediction models are useful in the design of cancer prevention trials and can also help women make informed decisions about cancer prevention and treatment options. For example, a woman at high risk of breast cancer might decide to take tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention, but ideally she needs to know her absolute endometrial cancer risk before doing so because tamoxifen increases the risk of this cancer. Similarly, knowledge of her ovarian cancer risk might influence a woman's decision regarding prophylactic removal of her ovaries to reduce her breast cancer risk. There are few absolute risk prediction models for ovarian cancer, and none for endometrial cancer, so here the researchers develop models to predict the risk of these cancers and of breast cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Absolute risk prediction models are constructed by combining estimates for risk factors from cohorts with population-based incidence rates from cancer registries. Models are validated in an independent cohort by testing their ability to identify people with the disease in an independent cohort and their ability to predict the observed numbers of incident cases. The researchers used data on white, non-Hispanic women aged 50 years or older that were collected during two large prospective US cohort studies of cancer screening and of diet and health, and US cancer incidence and mortality rates provided by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program to build their models. The models all included parity as a risk factor, as well as other factors. The model for endometrial cancer, for example, also included menopausal status, age at menopause, body mass index (an indicator of the amount of body fat), oral contraceptive use, menopausal hormone therapy use, and an interaction term between menopausal hormone therapy use and body mass index. Individual women's risk for endometrial cancer calculated using this model ranged from 1.22% to 17.8% over the next 20 years depending on their exposure to various risk factors. Validation of the models using data from the US Nurses' Health Study indicated that the endometrial cancer model overestimated the risk of endometrial cancer but that the breast and ovarian cancer models were well calibrated—the predicted and observed risks for these cancers in the validation cohort agreed closely. Finally, the discriminatory power of the models (a measure of how well a model separates people who have a disease from people who do not have the disease) was modest for the breast and ovarian cancer models but somewhat better for the endometrial cancer model.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer can all be predicted using information on known risk factors for these cancers that is easily obtainable. Because these models were constructed and validated using data from white, non-Hispanic women aged 50 years or older, they may not accurately predict absolute risk for these cancers for women of other races or ethnicities. Moreover, the modest discriminatory power of the breast and ovarian cancer models means they cannot be used to decide which women should be routinely screened for these cancers. Importantly, however, these well-calibrated models should provide realistic information about an individual's risk of developing breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer that can be used in clinical decision-making and that may assist in the identification of potential participants for research studies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001492.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Lars Holmberg and Andrew Vickers
The US National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information about breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer;
Information on the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, and on the prospective cohort study of screening and the diet and health study that provided the data used to build the models is also available on the NCI site
Cancer Research UK, a not-for-profit organization, provides information about cancer, including detailed information on breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer; the not-for-profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer and ovarian cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001492
PMCID: PMC3728034  PMID: 23935463
18.  Long-term effects of continuing adjuvant tamoxifen to 10 years versus stopping at 5 years after diagnosis of oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer: ATLAS, a randomised trial 
Lancet  2013;381(9869):805-816.
Summary
Background
For women with oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive early breast cancer, treatment with tamoxifen for 5 years substantially reduces the breast cancer mortality rate throughout the first 15 years after diagnosis. We aimed to assess the further effects of continuing tamoxifen to 10 years instead of stopping at 5 years.
Methods
In the worldwide Adjuvant Tamoxifen: Longer Against Shorter (ATLAS) trial, 12 894 women with early breast cancer who had completed 5 years of treatment with tamoxifen were randomly allocated to continue tamoxifen to 10 years or stop at 5 years (open control). Allocation (1:1) was by central computer, using minimisation. After entry (between 1996 and 2005), yearly follow-up forms recorded any recurrence, second cancer, hospital admission, or death. We report effects on breast cancer outcomes among the 6846 women with ER-positive disease, and side-effects among all women (with positive, negative, or unknown ER status). Long-term follow-up still continues. This study is registered, number ISRCTN19652633.
Findings
Among women with ER-positive disease, allocation to continue tamoxifen reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence (617 recurrences in 3428 women allocated to continue vs 711 in 3418 controls, p=0·002), reduced breast cancer mortality (331 deaths vs 397 deaths, p=0·01), and reduced overall mortality (639 deaths vs 722 deaths, p=0·01). The reductions in adverse breast cancer outcomes appeared to be less extreme before than after year 10 (recurrence rate ratio [RR] 0·90 [95% CI 0·79–1·02] during years 5–9 and 0·75 [0·62–0·90] in later years; breast cancer mortality RR 0·97 [0·79–1·18] during years 5–9 and 0·71 [0·58–0·88] in later years). The cumulative risk of recurrence during years 5–14 was 21·4% for women allocated to continue versus 25·1% for controls; breast cancer mortality during years 5–14 was 12·2% for women allocated to continue versus 15·0% for controls (absolute mortality reduction 2·8%). Treatment allocation seemed to have no effect on breast cancer outcome among 1248 women with ER-negative disease, and an intermediate effect among 4800 women with unknown ER status. Among all 12 894 women, mortality without recurrence from causes other than breast cancer was little affected (691 deaths without recurrence in 6454 women allocated to continue versus 679 deaths in 6440 controls; RR 0·99 [0·89–1·10]; p=0·84). For the incidence (hospitalisation or death) rates of specific diseases, RRs were as follows: pulmonary embolus 1·87 (95% CI 1·13–3·07, p=0·01 [including 0·2% mortality in both treatment groups]), stroke 1·06 (0·83–1·36), ischaemic heart disease 0·76 (0·60–0·95, p=0·02), and endometrial cancer 1·74 (1·30–2·34, p=0·0002). The cumulative risk of endometrial cancer during years 5–14 was 3·1% (mortality 0·4%) for women allocated to continue versus 1·6% (mortality 0·2%) for controls (absolute mortality increase 0·2%).
Interpretation
For women with ER-positive disease, continuing tamoxifen to 10 years rather than stopping at 5 years produces a further reduction in recurrence and mortality, particularly after year 10. These results, taken together with results from previous trials of 5 years of tamoxifen treatment versus none, suggest that 10 years of tamoxifen treatment can approximately halve breast cancer mortality during the second decade after diagnosis.
Funding
Cancer Research UK, UK Medical Research Council, AstraZeneca UK, US Army, EU-Biomed.
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61963-1
PMCID: PMC3596060  PMID: 23219286
19.  Postoperative radiotherapy and late mortality: evidence from the Cancer Research Campaign trial for early breast cancer. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1989;298(6688):1611-1614.
OBJECTIVE--To identify any excess mortality caused by adjuvant radiotherapy for early breast cancer. DESIGN--Prospective randomised clinical trial. Two thousand subjects needed for study to have a 90% chance of detecting a difference in survival rate of 7% with 95% significance. Patients were followed up until June 1988, giving follow up of 158-216 months. SETTING--A multicentre trial mainly drawing patients from centres in the United Kingdom. PATIENTS--2800 Women presenting with clinical stage I or II carcinoma of the breast from June 1970 to April 1975. INTERVENTIONS--One group of women (n = 1376) had simple mastectomy followed by immediate postoperative radiotherapy (1320 to 1510 rets). The remaining women (n = 1424) had simple mastectomy with subsequent careful observation of the axilla, radiotherapy being delayed until there was obvious progression or recurrence of disease locally. END POINT--Increased mortality in patients treated with radiotherapy from causes other than breast cancer. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Survival was measured from time of first treatment to death or last follow up. Deaths from any cause and from specified causes were counted as events. Comparison over the whole follow up showed a slight excess mortality in the group treated with radiotherapy (relative risk 1.04; 95% confidence interval 0.94 to 1.15). The relative risk of death from breast cancer was 0.97 (0.87 to 1.08) but that of death from other causes was 1.37 (1.09 to 1.72), the increase mainly being in women who had had tumours of the left breast (1.61 (1.17 to 2.24)) and had been treated with orthovoltage (1.85 (1.27 to 2.71)). Analysis of causes of death after five years showed a relative risk of 2.11 (1.25 to 3.59) for new malignancies and of 1.65 (1.05 to 2.58) for cardiac disease, the increase in cardiac mortality being most pronounced in patients who had had tumours of the left breast and whose treatment had included orthovoltage radiation (relative risk 2.67 (1.28 to 5.55)). CONCLUSIONS--Adjuvant radiotherapy after simple mastectomy for early breast cancer produces a small excess late mortality from other cancers and cardiac disease. The risk has to be balanced against the higher risk of local recurrence when immediate postoperative radiotherapy is not given. The balance has to be assessed for each patient, and for many patients radiotherapy will still be desirable in the initial treatment of their early breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC1836871  PMID: 2503148
20.  The BARD1 Cys557Ser Variant and Breast Cancer Risk in Iceland 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e217.
Background
Most, if not all, of the cellular functions of the BRCA1 protein are mediated through heterodimeric complexes composed of BRCA1 and a related protein, BARD1. Some breast-cancer-associated BRCA1 missense mutations disrupt the function of the BRCA1/BARD1 complex. It is therefore pertinent to determine whether variants of BARD1 confer susceptibility to breast cancer. Recently, a missense BARD1 variant, Cys557Ser, was reported to be at increased frequencies in breast cancer families. We investigated the role of the BARD1 Cys557Ser variant in a population-based cohort of 1,090 Icelandic patients with invasive breast cancer and 703 controls. We then used a computerized genealogy of the Icelandic population to study the relationships between the Cys557Ser variant and familial clustering of breast cancer.
Methods and Findings
The Cys557Ser allele was present at a frequency of 0.028 in patients with invasive breast cancer and 0.016 in controls (odds ratio [OR] = 1.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11–3.01, p = 0.014). The alleleic frequency was 0.037 in a high-predisposition group of cases defined by having a family history of breast cancer, early onset of breast cancer, or multiple primary breast cancers (OR = 2.41, 95% CI 1.22–4.75, p = 0.015). Carriers of the common Icelandic BRCA2 999del5 mutation were found to have their risk of breast cancer further increased if they also carried the BARD1 variant: the frequency of the BARD1 variant allele was 0.047 (OR = 3.11, 95% CI 1.16–8.40, p = 0.046) in 999del5 carriers with breast cancer. This suggests that the lifetime probability of a BARD1 Cys557Ser/BRCA2 999del5 double carrier developing breast cancer could approach certainty. Cys557Ser carriers, with or without the BRCA2 mutation, had an increased risk of subsequent primary breast tumors after the first breast cancer diagnosis compared to non-carriers. Lobular and medullary breast carcinomas were overrepresented amongst Cys557Ser carriers. We found that an excess of ancestors of contemporary carriers lived in a single county in the southeast of Iceland and that all carriers shared a SNP haplotype, which is suggestive of a founder event. Cys557Ser was found on the same SNP haplotype background in the HapMap Project CEPH sample of Utah residents.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that BARD1 Cys557Ser is an ancient variant that confers risk of single and multiple primary breast cancers, and this risk extends to carriers of the BRCA2 999del5 mutation.
Editors' Summary
Background.
About 13% of women (one in eight women) will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, but many factors affect the likelihood of any individual woman developing this disease, for example, whether she has had children and at what age, when she started and stopped her periods, and her exposure to certain chemicals or radiation. She may also have inherited a defective gene that affects her risk of developing breast cancer. Some 5%–10% of all breast cancers are familial, or inherited. In 20% of these cases, the gene that is defective is BRCA1 or BRCA2. Inheriting a defective copy of one of these genes greatly increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, while researchers think that the other inherited genes that predispose to breast cancer—most of which have not been identified yet—have a much weaker effect. These are described as low-penetrance genes. Inheriting one such gene only slightly increases breast cancer risk; a woman has to inherit several to increase her lifetime risk of cancer significantly.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is important to identify these additional predisposing gene variants because they might provide insights into why breast cancer develops, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. To find low-penetrance genes, researchers do case–control association studies. They find a large group of women with breast cancer (cases) and a similar group of women without cancer (controls), and examine how often a specific gene variant occurs in the two groups. If the variant is found more often in the cases than in the controls, it might be a variant that increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers involved in this study recruited Icelandic women who had had breast cancer and unaffected women, and looked for a specific variant—the Cys557Ser allele—of a gene called BARD1. They chose BARD1 because the protein it encodes interacts with the protein encoded by BRCA1. Because defects in BRCA1 increase the risk of breast cancer, defects in an interacting protein might have a similar effect. In addition, the Cys557Ser allele has been implicated in breast cancer in other studies. The researchers found that the Cys557Ser allele was nearly twice as common in women with breast cancer as in control women. It was also more common (but not by much) in women who had a family history of breast cancer or who had developed breast cancer more than once. And having the Cys557Ser allele seemed to increase the already high risk of breast cancer in women who had a BRCA2 variant (known as BRCA2 999del5) that accounts for 40% of inherited breast cancer risk in Iceland.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that inheriting the BARD1 Cys557Ser allele increases a woman's breast cancer risk but that she is unlikely to have a family history of the disease. Because carrying the Cys557Ser allele only slightly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, for most women there is no clinical reason to test for this variant. Eventually, when all the low-penetrance genes that contribute to breast cancer risk have been identified, it might be helpful to screen women for the full set to determine whether they are at high risk of developing breast cancer. This will not happen for many years, however, since there might be tens or hundreds of these genes. For women who carry BRCA2 999del5, the situation might be different. It might be worth testing these women for the BARD1 Cys557Ser allele, the researchers explain, because the lifetime probability of developing breast cancer in women carrying both variants might approach 100%. This finding has clinical implications in terms of counseling and monitoring, as does the observation that Cys557Ser carriers have an increased risk of a second, independent breast cancer compared to non-carriers. However, all these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of patients before anyone is routinely tested for the BARD1 Cys557Ser allele.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030217.
• MedlinePlus pages about breast cancer
• Information on breast cancer from the United States National Cancer Institute
• Information on inherited breast cancer from the United States National Human Genome Research Institute
• United States National Cancer Institute information on genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants
• GeneTests pages on the involvement of BRCA1 and BRCA2 in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer
• Cancer Research UK's page on breast cancer statistics
In a population-based cohort of 1090 Icelandic patients, a Cys557Ser missense variant of the BARD1 gene, which interacts with BRCA1, increased the risk of single and multiple primary breast cancers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030217
PMCID: PMC1479388  PMID: 16768547
21.  Replication error phenotype, clinicopathological variables, and patient outcome in Dukes' B stage II (T3,N0,M0) colorectal cancer 
Gut  2000;46(2):200-204.
AIMS—To examine the relation between the replication error (RER) phenotype and other genetic events, clinical features, and long term survival in patients with Dukes' B stage II (T3,N0,M0) colorectal cancer.
METHODS—RER phenotype was investigated in 159 patients by PCR amplification of microsatellite marker loci on chromosomes 5q, 17p, 17q, and 18q from tumour DNA extracted from archival tissue. Data on activating c-Ki-ras mutations were available from a previous study. Immunohistochemical detection of p53 and c-erbB-2 expression was performed on paraffin wax embedded tissue.
RESULTS—Of 159 colorectal cancers studied, 22 (14%) were RER+ while 137 (86%) were RER− for two or more loci. RER+ tumours were more commonly located in the right colon, tended to be larger than RER− tumours, and were more often poorly differentiated than RER− cancers. No significant associations were seen between RER status and the presence of a mutant c-Ki-ras gene, or between RER status and p53, c-erbB-2, or c-myc gene expression. Univariate survival analysis showed that outcome was similar in RER+ and RER− cases. Multivariate survival analysis showed that the relative risk of death for patients with RER+ cancers was 0.95 that of patients with RER− cancers.
CONCLUSIONS—The results suggest that, while the RER phenotype may be associated with some differences in tumour pathology (site, size, differentiation), it is not associated with the genetic alterations studied or with significant differences in long term survival.


Keywords: colon cancer; replication error phenotype; microsatellite instability; c-Ki-ras mutation; p53 expression; c-erbB-2
doi:10.1136/gut.46.2.200
PMCID: PMC1727803  PMID: 10644313
22.  Polymorphic repeat in AIB1 does not alter breast cancer risk 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2000;2(5):378-385.
We assessed the association between a glutamine repeat polymorphism in AIB1 and breast cancer risk in a case-control study (464 cases, 624 controls) nested within the Nurses' Health Study cohort. We observed no association between AIB1 genotype and breast cancer incidence, or specific tumor characteristics. These findings suggest that AIB1 repeat genotype does not influence postmenopausal breast cancer risk among Caucasian women in the general population.
Introduction:
A causal association between endogenous and exogenous estrogens and breast cancer has been established. Steroid hormones regulate the expression of proteins that are involved in breast cell proliferation and development after binding to their respective steroid hormone receptors. Coactivator and corepressor proteins have recently been identified that interact with steroid hormone receptors and modulate transcriptional activation [1]. AIB1 (amplified in breast 1) is a member of the steroid receptor coactivator (SRC) family that interacts with estrogen receptor (ER)α in a ligand-dependent manner, and increases estrogen-dependent transcription [2]. Amplification and overexpression of AIB1 has been observed in breast and ovarian cancer cell lines and in breast tumors [2,3]. A polymorphic stretch of glutamine amino acids, with unknown biologic function, has recently been described in the carboxyl-terminal region of AIB1 [4]. Among women with germline BRCA1 mutations, significant positive associations were observed between AIB1 alleles with 26 or fewer glutamine repeats and breast cancer risk [5]
Aim:
To establish whether AIB1 repeat alleles are associated with breast cancer risk and specific tumor characteristics among Caucasian women.
Patients and methods:
We evaluated associations prospectively between AIB1 alleles and breast cancer risk in the Nurses' Health Study using a nested case-control design. The Nurses' Health Study was initiated in 1976, when 121 700 US-registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 years returned an initial questionnaire reporting medical histories and baseline health-related exposures. Between 1989 and 1990 blood samples were collected from 32 826 women. Eligible cases in this study consisted of women with pathologically confirmed incident breast cancer from the subcohort who gave a blood specimen. Cases with a diagnosis anytime after blood collection up to June 1, 1994, with no previously diagnosed cancer except for nonmelanoma skin cancer were included. Controls were randomly selected participants who gave a blood sample and were free of diagnosed cancer (except nonmelanoma skin cancer) up to and including the interval in which the cases were diagnosed, and were matched to cases on year of birth, menopausal status, postmenopausal hormone use, and time of day, month and fasting status at blood sampling. The nested case-control study consisted of 464 incident breast cancer cases and 624 matched controls. The protocol was approved by the Committee on Human Subjects, Brigham and Womens' Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts USA. Information regarding breast cancer risk factors was obtained from the 1976 baseline questionnaire, subsequent biennial questionnaires, and a questionnaire that was completed at the time of blood sampling. Histopathologic characteristics, such as stage, tumor size and ER and progesterone receptor (PR) status, were ascertained from medical records when available and used in case subgroup analyses.
AIB1 repeat alleles were determined by automated fluorescence-based fragment detection from polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified DNA extracted from peripheral blood lymphocytes. Fluorescent 5' -labeled primers were utilized for PCR amplification, and glutamine repeat number discrimination was performed using the ABI Prism 377 DNA Sequencer (Perkin-Elmer, Foster City, CA, USA). Genotyping was performed by laboratory personnel who were blinded to case-control status, and blinded quality control samples were inserted to validate genotyping identification procedures (n = 110); concordance for the blinded samples was 100%. Methods regarding plasma hormone assays have previously been reported [6]. Conditional and unconditional logistic regression models, including terms for the matching variables and other potential confounders, were used to assess the association of AIB1 alleles and breast cancer characterized by histologic subtype, stage of disease, and ER and PR status. We also evaluated whether breast cancer risk associated with AIB1 genotype differed within strata of established breast cancer risk factors, and whether repeat length in AIB1 indirectly influenced plasma hormone levels.
Results:
The case-control comparisons of established breast cancer risk factors among these women have previously been reported [7], and are generally consistent with expectation. The mean age of the women was 58.3 (standard deviation [SD] 7.1) years, ranging from 43 to 69 years at blood sampling. There were 188 premenopausal and 810 postmenopausal women, with mean ages of 48.1 (SD 2.8) years and 61.4 (SD 5.0) years, respectively, at blood sampling. Women in this study were primarily white; Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics comprised less than 1% of cases or controls.
The distribution of AIB1 glutamine repeat alleles and AIB1 genotypes for cases and controls are presented in Table 1. Women with AIB1 alleles of 26 glutamine repeats or fewer were not at increased risk for breast cancer (odds ratio [OR] 1.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.75-1.36; Table 2). Results were also similar by menopausal status and in analyses additionally adjusting for established breast cancer risk factors. Among premenopausal women, the OR for women with at least one allele with 26 glutamine repeats or fewer was 0.82 (95% Cl 0.37-1.81), and among postmenopausal women the OR was 1.09 (95% Cl 0.78-1.52; Table 2). We did not observe evidence of a positive association between shorter repeat length and advanced breast cancer, defined as women with breast cancer having one or more involved nodes (OR 1.07, 95% Cl 0.64-1.78), or with cancers with a hormone-dependent phenotype (ER-positive: OR 1.16, 95% Cl 0.81-1.65; Table 3). No associations were observed among women who had one or more alleles with 26 glutamine repeats or fewer, with or without a family history of breast cancer (family history: OR 1.09; 95% Cl 0.46-2.58; no family history: OR 0.94; 95% Cl 0.68-1.31; test for interaction P = 0.65). We also did not observe associations with breast cancer risk to be modified by other established breast cancer risk factors. Among postmenopausal controls not using postmenopausal hormones, geometric least-squared mean plasma levels of estrone sulfate and estrone were similar among carriers and noncarriers of AIB1 alleles with 26 glutamine repeats or fewer (both differences: ≤ +3.5%; P >0.50). Mean levels of estradiol were slightly, but nonsignificantly elevated among carriers of alleles with 26 glutamine repeats or fewer (+11.6%; P = 0.08).
Discussion:
In this population-based nested case-control study, women with at most 26 repeating glutamine codons (CAG/CAA) within the carboxyl terminus of AIB1 were not at increased risk for breast cancer. We did not observe shorter repeat alleles to be positively associated with breast cancer grouped by histologic subtype, stage of disease, or by ER and PR status. These data suggest that AIB1 repeat length is not a strong independent risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer, and does not modify the clinical presentation of the tumor among Caucasian women in the general population.
PMCID: PMC13920  PMID: 11056690
AIB1 polymorphism; breast cancer; genetic susceptibility; molecular epidemiology
23.  Birth Size and Breast Cancer Risk: Re-analysis of Individual Participant Data from 32 Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(9):e193.
Background
Birth size, perhaps a proxy for prenatal environment, might be a correlate of subsequent breast cancer risk, but findings from epidemiological studies have been inconsistent. We re-analysed individual participant data from published and unpublished studies to obtain more precise estimates of the magnitude and shape of the birth size–breast cancer association.
Methods and Findings
Studies were identified through computer-assisted and manual searches, and personal communication with investigators. Individual participant data from 32 studies, comprising 22,058 breast cancer cases, were obtained. Random effect models were used, if appropriate, to combine study-specific estimates of effect. Birth weight was positively associated with breast cancer risk in studies based on birth records (pooled relative risk [RR] per one standard deviation [SD] [= 0.5 kg] increment in birth weight: 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02–1.09) and parental recall when the participants were children (1.02; 95% CI 0.99–1.05), but not in those based on adult self-reports, or maternal recall during the woman's adulthood (0.98; 95% CI 0.95–1.01) (p for heterogeneity between data sources = 0.003). Relative to women who weighed 3.000–3.499 kg, the risk was 0.96 (CI 0.80–1.16) in those who weighed < 2.500 kg, and 1.12 (95% CI 1.00–1.25) in those who weighed ≥ 4.000 kg (p for linear trend = 0.001) in birth record data. Birth length and head circumference from birth records were also positively associated with breast cancer risk (pooled RR per one SD increment: 1.06 [95% CI 1.03–1.10] and 1.09 [95% CI 1.03–1.15], respectively). Simultaneous adjustment for these three birth size variables showed that length was the strongest independent predictor of risk. The birth size effects did not appear to be confounded or mediated by established breast cancer risk factors and were not modified by age or menopausal status. The cumulative incidence of breast cancer per 100 women by age 80 y in the study populations was estimated to be 10.0, 10.0, 10.4, and 11.5 in those who were, respectively, in the bottom, second, third, and top fourths of the birth length distribution.
Conclusions
This pooled analysis of individual participant data is consistent with birth size, and in particular birth length, being an independent correlate of breast cancer risk in adulthood.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Last year, more than one million women discovered that they had breast cancer. In the US, nearly 200,000 women will face the same diagnosis this year and 40,000 will die because of breast cancer. Put another way, about one in eight US women will have breast cancer during her lifetime. Like all cancers, breast cancer begins when cells acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). This uncontrolled division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual examination of the breasts. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and other treatments designed to kill any remaining cancer cells. Unlike some cancers, the outlook for women with breast cancer is good. In the US, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Scientists have identified several factors that increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by comparing the characteristics of populations of women with and without breast cancer. Well-established risk factors include increasing age, not having children, and having a late menopause, but another potential risk factor for breast cancer is birth size. A baby's weight, length, and head circumference at birth (three related measures of birth size) depend on the levels of hormones (including estrogen, a hormone that often affects breast cancer growth) and other biological factors to which the baby is exposed during pregnancy—its prenatal environment. The idea that prenatal environment might also affect breast cancer risk in later life was first proposed in 1990, but the findings of studies that have tried to investigate this possibility have been inconsistent. Here, the researchers re-analyze individual participant data from a large number of studies into women's health conducted in Europe, Northern America, and China to get more precise information about the association between birth size and breast cancer risk.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 32 published and unpublished studies that had collected information on birth size and on the occurrence of breast cancer. They then obtained the individual participant data from these studies, which involved more than 22,000 women who had developed breast cancer and more than 600,000 women who had not. Their analyses of these data show that birth weight was positively associated with breast cancer risk in those studies where this measurement was recorded at birth or based on parental recall during the study participant's childhood (but not in those studies in which birth weight was self-reported or maternally recalled during the participant's adulthood). For example, women with recorded birth weights of more than 4 kg or more had a 12% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who weighed 3–3.5 kg at birth. Birth length and head circumference were also positively associated with breast cancer risk, but birth length was the strongest single predictor of risk. Finally, the amount by which birth size affected breast cancer risk was not affected by allowing for other established risk factors.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that birth size—in particular, birth length—is a marker of a woman's breast cancer risk in adulthood although the mechanisms underlying this association are unclear. The researchers note that the observed effect of birth size on breast cancer risk is of a similar magnitude to that of other more established risk factors and estimate that 5% of all breast cancers in developed countries could be caused by a high birth size. Because practically all the studies included in this pooled analysis were done in developed countries, these findings may not hold for developing countries. Further investigations into how the prenatal environment may affect breast cancer risk might identify new ways to prevent this increasingly common cancer.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050193.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Trichopoulos and Lagiou
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, including information on risk factors for breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; Medline Plus also provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity Cancerbackup also provides detailed information about breast cancer
Cancer Research UK is the UK's leading charity dedicated to cancer research
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050193
PMCID: PMC2553821  PMID: 18828667
24.  Differences in Management of Older Women Influence Breast Cancer Survival: Results from a Population-Based Database in Sweden 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(3):e25.
Background
Several reports have shown that less aggressive patterns of diagnostic activity and care are provided to elderly breast carcinoma patients. We sought to investigate whether differences in the management of older women with breast cancer are associated with survival.
Methods and Findings
In an observational study using a population-based clinical breast cancer register of one health-care region in Sweden, we identified 9,059 women aged 50–84 y diagnosed with primary breast cancer between 1992 and 2002. The 5-y relative survival ratio was estimated for patients classified by age group, diagnostic activity, tumor characteristics, and treatment. The 5-y relative survival for breast cancer patients was lower (up to 13%) in women 70–84 y of age compared to women aged 50–69 y, and the difference was most pronounced in stage IIB–III and in the unstaged. Significant differences in disease management were found, as older women had larger tumors, had fewer nodes examined, and did not receive treatment by radiotherapy or by chemotherapy as often as the younger women. Adjustment for diagnostic activity, tumor characteristics, and treatment diminished the relative excess mortality in stages III and in the unstaged, whereas the excess mortality was only marginally affected in stage IIB.
Conclusions
Less diagnostic activity, less aggressive treatment, and later diagnosis in older women are associated with poorer survival. The large differences in treatment of older women are difficult to explain by co-morbidity alone.
A study from Sweden shows that a lower 5-year relative survival for older women with breast cancer was associated with less diagnostic activity, less aggressive treatment, and later diagnosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030025
PMCID: PMC1326256  PMID: 16409108
25.  The influence of menopausal hormone therapy on tumour characteristics and survival in endometrial cancer patients 
Introduction
Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is a well established factor in endometrial carcinogenesis, and therefore, could have prognostic implications. We investigated the effects of ever use of MHT on tumour grade and depth of myometrial invasion, and 5-year relative survival in postmenopausal endometrial cancer patients.
Materials and Methods
We used a nationwide, population-based case-case design, of 683 Swedish women aged 50–74 years diagnosed with endometrial cancer during 1994 to 1995, followed up to 5 years after diagnosis. We applied polytomous multiple logistic regression to investigate the associations between use of MHT and tumour grade, and myometrial invasion and Poisson regression for modelling 5-year excess mortality.
Results
Compared to never use, ever use of any MHT entailed lower risks of having moderately and poorly differentiated tumours. The lowest odds ratios for poorly differentiated tumours were seen for ever users of cyclically combined oestrogen-progestin [OR = 0.23 (95% CI = 0.07–0.73)]. Ever users of any form of MHT; particularly, medium potency MHT users, had significantly lower risks for tumours with deep myometrial invasion. Adjusted estimated relative excess hazard ratios revealed significantly improved survival for ever users of any form of MHT [RER = 0.40 (95% CI = 0.16–0.97)]; in particular ever users of any form of oestrogens [RER = 0.38 (95% CI = 0.15–0.99)].
Conclusion
Endometrial cancer patients who were ever users of MHT had more favourable tumour characteristics and better survival compared to never users of MHT. These findings support the notion that MHT induces endometrial cancer with less aggressive characteristics.
doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2009.05.012
PMCID: PMC2783257  PMID: 19493676
Endometrial cancer; menopause hormone therapy; postmenopausal; tumour grade; myometrial invasion; relative survival; mortality

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