-- Alan Mozes
TUESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors might better
predict a woman's risk for breast cancer by tracking levels of key
hormones, Harvard researchers report.
One expert said such a test could be useful.
"A large part of my practice involves counseling and educating women on their risk of developing breast cancer," said Dr. Myra Barginear, a breast medical oncologist at North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y. "If the study's findings are validated and confirmed, a simple blood test to evaluate hormone levels, as the Investigators did in the study, would be a very useful, additional tool to evaluate a woman's risk of developing breast cancer."
According to the researchers, monitoring hormone levels could be
added to markers already routinely looked at by physicians,
including the number of pregnancies a woman has had and when she
Study author Shelley Tworoger, an associate professor of
medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, explained that
"postmenopausal women with high levels of the hormones estrogens,
androgen and prolactin, have a higher risk of breast cancer than
women with low levels."
"At this point in time, however, no hormones are included in breast cancer risk prediction models," she said in a news release. However, the new study suggests that adding in levels of three hormones -- estrone sulfate, testosterone and prolactin "may provide the biggest improvement in risk prediction for breast cancer," Tworoger said.
In the new study, her team analyzed breast cancer risk for a
group of 473 postmenopausal women diagnosed with invasive breast
cancer, as well as 770 women without the disease.
The researchers concluded that including the presence of high
levels of key hormones boosted the accuracy of predicting those
women at higher risk of invasive breast cancer.
According to Barginear, the finding "is not surprising and
actually quite logical," especially since treatments for certain
types of breast cancer hinge on lowering levels of hormones such as
She added that "evaluating these hormones to help predict the
risk of breast cancer in a postmenopausal woman is most valuable,
as over two-thirds of breast cancer occurs in postmenopausal
Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill
Hospital in New York City, said that while the findings are
promising, "more work needs to be done before circulating hormone
levels will be included" in routine estimates of breast cancer
The study is to be presented Tuesday at the American Association
for Cancer Research's annual meeting on cancer prevention, in
National Harbor, Md. Findings presented at medical meetings are
typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
For more on breast cancer, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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