Data Collection Method for Benign Breast Disease Can Provide Insight on Cancer Development

November 2, 2020
Matthew Fowler

A study revealed that the way data is collected regarding women with benign breast diseases can provide insight into which non-cancerous disorders are likely to become cancerous in the future.

Researchers have determined that the way benign breast diseases (BBD), non-cancerous disorders of the breast that are known to increase the chances of subsequent breast cancer, are detected can give insight on which are most likely to become cancerous, according to a team of Spanish researchers.

For women attending breast screenings, BBD found on the first visit is considered “prevalent” BBD while disease found on subsequent visits is classified as “incident” BBD. Typically, screenings are done for women after the age of 50 in Spain and many other European countries with national screening programs.

"Our results show that women with a benign breast disease diagnosed from the second screening onwards have a significantly higher subsequent risk of breast cancer than those with a BBD diagnosed on their first mammographic screening," senior researcher in the epidemiology department at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, Dr. Marta Román, said in a press release.

Data was collected from almost 630,000 women who underwent a total of 2,327,384 screening mammograms between 1995 and 2015. Researchers determined that women diagnosed with incident BBD saw a 2.67-fold increased chance of developing breast cancer compared to women with no BBD. More, women with prevalent BBD saw a 1.87-fold increased risk than women with no BBD.

Further, the researchers classified BBD as either proliferative or non-proliferative. This categorization depended upon whether or not the breast tissue showed an increase in specific cell growth, such as the ductal cells found in ductal hyperplasia.

Using this categorization, researchers determined that women with proliferative BBD had a 3.28-fold increased chance of breast cancer compared to women with no BBD. Women with non-proliferative BBD saw a 1.96-fold increased risk.

"The likelihood that a woman will benefit from screening mammography depends on her risk for developing clinically significant breast cancer in her lifetime," said Dr. Román. "Taking individual risk factors beyond age into account should enable the classification of women into groups at varying risk of breast cancer. Personalized risk-based screening going beyond the current 'one-size fits all' recommendation may increase the effectiveness of breast cancer screening.”

The researchers than examined women with an incident, non-proliferative BBD, which found a 2.39-fold increased chance of developing breast cancer compared to women with no BBD. For women with prevalent, proliferative BBD, the increased risk was 2.85-fold, and women with prevalent, non-proliferative BBD had a 1.63-fold increased risk.

The team of researchers led by Professor Xavier Castells hope this data can help in the design of personalized breast screening strategies to improve its effectiveness. More, the team also believes these findings will help clinicians understand the different risks associated with BBD and improve predictions for accuracy of breast cancer risk.

"Different screening strategies can be considered for each woman based on her personal risk of breast cancer: by modifying the screening interval, which could be annual, or every two or three years, the method of screening, for instance, mammogram, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging, or the age range in which the woman is invited for screening participation," said Dr. Román.


Researchers reveal which benign breast disease is most likely to develop into cancer [news release]. Published October 1, 2020. Accessed October 26, 2020.