Medical experts now believe there is a much greater risk for developing breast cancer in women who are diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia, a precancerous condition, discovered through a typical biopsy.
Researchers at the Rochester Minnesota Mayo Clinic found that within 25 years of receiving a diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia, roughly 30% of women developed breast cancer. With this condition, there is an overgrowth of cells that occur in a distorted type pattern. Currently, atypical hyperplasia is found in over one million biopsies performed in the United States annually. However, these are biopsies that came back with benign results for actual cancer.
According to Dr. Lynn Hartmann, study researcher and professor of oncology at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic, it has long been known that this precancerous condition raises the risk for the development of breast cancer but now, women now better understand the real risk involved.
Prior to this new study, medical experts thought the risk for women getting breast cancer following a diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia was about four times greater but women were not provided specific information pertaining to their individual risk.
In the study, a team of professionals closely monitored nearly 700 women who had been given a diagnosis of this precancerous condition from 1967 to 2001 while visiting the Mayo Clinic. In a follow-up of around 12 years, 143 of the women who participated had developed cancer of the breast.
Furthermore, Hartmann and her team were able to validate the findings by studying another group of women at Vanderbilt University, also diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia. The combined data from the two groups show that nearly 30% of women diagnosed with the precancerous condition had in fact developed breast cancer.
Based on this new research, women have the opportunity to gain far more valuable information. As stated by Robert Smith, director of cancer screening with the American Cancer Society, a primary strength of this particular study was the significant number of women involved who were monitored for an extended period of time.
Smith went on to say that medical experts have always known that women with atypical hyperplasia were at higher risk for breast cancer but with the extended data gathered, the risk is much greater than initially believed.
Dr. Laura Kruper, co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the California’s City of Hope Cancer Center and renowned breast surgeon feels this new insight into atypical hyperplasia is far more serious than what medical experts believed.
In looking at the American Cancer Society’s estimates, of women in the US, overall 12% which is equivalent to one in eight will at some time in life develop breast cancer. Kruper said the medical community as a whole needs to focus more on the information uncovered pertaining to this precancerous condition.
Experts agree that if a woman is diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia, it is imperative for her to talk to a reputable doctor about using tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, or some other chemo-preventative medication, drugs commonly used for women considered at high risk for breast cancer.
Hartmann noted that a large number of women involved in the Mayo Clinic study developed estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, which requires the growth of estrogen. Therefore, chemo-preventative medications that reduce estrogen would help lower the risk. In addition, some women might consider having an MRI screening performed in conjunction with a mammogram.