This is a copy of a news article from 1999.
A new method of calculating breast cancer risk can help doctors predict a woman’s risk of developing an invasive form of the cancer, results of a new study suggest.
The technique "can provide useful information to women who may be contemplating the risks and benefits of breast cancer preventative strategies," according to a statement issued by the editors of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Reporting in the September 15th issue of the Journal, researchers from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, tested a breast cancer risk assessment model that estimates risk based on a series of factors including current age, age at first menstruation, age at delivery of first child, number of previous breast biopsies, and number of first-degree relatives with breast cancer.>
"A positive response to any of the questions (except age) equals an elevated risk of breast cancer. Then the model calculates how many times higher a woman’s risk is compared to women in the general population with no risk factors," lead researcher Joseph P. Costantino, associate director of prevention at the NSABP’s Biostatistic Center, told Reuters Health.
"Then, using the model, we multiply this number by the number of breast cancers expected in women of the same age and race with no known risk factors," explains Costantino, also an associate professor of biostatistics at the graduate school of public health at the University of Pittsburgh. "The model can determine a women’s risk of cancer throughout her lifetime."
The original model to assess breast cancer risk was designed in 1989. This model was modified by the NSABP so that it gauges risk for invasive breast cancer, cancer that has spread t involve nearby tissues. The revised model is "broadly accessible" on a computer disc by the National Cancer Institutes to help women and their physicians properly assess risk.
"Experience and research has shown that women dramatically overestimate their breast cancer risk, so for the majority of women, when they find out their true risk, it greatly reduces their anxiety," he says. "If a woman finds out she is at high risk for breast cancer, there are steps she can take to greatly reduce her risk" such as prophylactic mastectomy (surgical removal of a healthy breast) or taking the drug tamoxifen, which studies have shown can reduce cancer risk in women at high risk for breast cancer.
In the study, researchers tested the model on a group of 5,969 women with no history of breast cancer and a negative mammogram less than 180 days before the study began, All study participants underwent yearly screening mammography’s and were followed for an average of more than 4 years.
During the study period, 155 women developed "invasive" breast cancer. The math model predicted that about 159 women would develop invasive breast tumors.
These models "can provide useful information to assist in counseling women who are thought to be free of breast cancer following an initial screening examination with mammography and who plan to participate in a program of regular mammographic screening," Costantino and colleagues conclude. "The information is useful for counseling women who may be contemplating risks and benefits of preventive strategies," they add.
SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1999;91:1541-1548.
Try the Breast Cancer Risk calculator.