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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 12:07 GMT
'Detective' work defines cancer risk women
Lab work
Analysis revealed tell-tale signs of cancer
Researchers have found a way of checking whether abnormalities in a woman's breast are likely to develop into cancer.

The findings could help single out those women who would benefit from prophylactic anti-oestrogen drugs at an early stage to prevent cancer forming.

The researchers from Royal Liverpool University Hospitals analysed the 20-year case histories of 503 patients who had benign lesions, also known as hyperplasia of usual type (HUT).


Preventive measures are better than curative ones

Dr Abeer Shaaban
Of these, 120 went on to develop breast cancer, on average within five years.

Speaking at the European Breast Conference in Barcelona, the researchers said those with HUT have an increased risk of developing breast cancer of between 1.5 and two times that of the general population.

However, in this study, the 120 patients who got breast cancer shared a very distinctive set of markers.

Dr Abeer Shaaban, a specialist registrar in histopathology at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, said they had a high proportion of three chemical markers.

The team concluded that if these women had benign lesions and the three markers they became a high risk patient.

They suggest this sub-set might be good candidates for frequent screening and anti-oestrogen drugs like Tamoxifen.

However, they say a second clinical study is needed to prove this.

Early step

Dr Shaaban said: "This study is an early step on the way to refining breast cancer risk.

"HUT has been reported increasingly since the advent of mammography.

"By identifying lesions likely to progress to breast cancer early in patients' lifetimes, prophylactic anti-oestrogen therapy could be offered to this particular high-risk group.

"Moreover, for those who prove not to be at high risk, regular mammographic screening might not be a necessity.

"I think preventive measures are better than curative ones.

"It's better to select those at high risk than screen all women."

In the study, the average age of the women at diagnosis of benign lesions was 49.

The team looked at case histories of HUT patients between 1979 and 1999.

See also:

19 Mar 02 | Health
Breast screening benefits hailed
15 Mar 02 | Health
Relief over breast drug decision
02 Mar 02 | Health
Breast care cost questioned
01 Dec 01 | Health
Women fail to spot breast cancer
05 Nov 01 | Health
Breast 'most common cancer'
17 Mar 00 | C-D
Breast Cancer
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