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Increased Cancer Recurrence Linked to High Breast Density

Women with high-density tissue who undergo surgery without radiotherapy at higher risk

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Women with invasive breast cancer and high-density breast tissue who undergo breast-conserving surgery without radiotherapy are likely at an increased risk of recurrence, according to a study published online Nov. 9 in Cancer.

Tulin Cil, M.D., of the University Health Network in Toronto, and colleagues reviewed the medical records of 335 invasive breast cancer patients who underwent breast-conserving surgery having previously had a mammogram. The breast tissue density of the patients was classified as low (below 25 percent density), intermediate (25 to 50 percent density), or high (above 50 percent density).

The researchers found that patients whose breast tissue was classified as high density had a 21 percent risk of local disease recurrence within 10 years as compared to a 5 percent risk for those with low-density breast tissue. While women with high-density breast tissue who did not receive radiotherapy had a 40 percent risk of recurrence at 10 years, the risk was 0 percent for women with low-density breast tissue.

"If it could be confirmed that women with low breast density (comprising approximately 30 percent of the current study population) do not benefit from radiotherapy, this could then result in considerable savings, reduced morbidity, and improved quality of life," the authors write. "Similarly, we observed a local recurrence rate of 40 percent at seven years among women in the high-density group, compared with 8 percent for women with low breast density who received radiotherapy. We believe these data confirm the benefit of radiotherapy in women with dense breasts."

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