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Radiation Therapy Benefits Elderly Breast Cancer Patients

Treatment reduces risk of cancer recurrence and mastectomies in those age 70 or older

TUESDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- Radiation therapy can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and mastectomies in women at least 70 years old with early-stage breast cancer, according to a report in the May 17 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Benjamin D. Smith, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues identified 8,724 women at least 70 years old who underwent conservative surgery for small, lymph node-negative breast cancers that were either estrogen receptor-positive or of unknown receptor status. Seventy-three percent of patients had received radiation therapy.

Women who received radiation therapy had a lower risk of either a second cancer or mastectomy (hazard ratio, 0.19). In women receiving radiation therapy, the absolute risk was reduced by four events per 100 women after five years, and by 5.7 events per 100 women after eight years. Women in their 70s without comorbidity were most likely to benefit from radiation therapy, while women aged 80 years or older with moderate to severe comorbidity were least likely to benefit, according to the study.

"More high-quality observational studies such as that by Smith et al. can be used to provide information for clinical and policy decision making for the rapidly growing older population of women at risk for breast cancer," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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