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Breast Cancer Recurrence: Younger Women at Higher Risk

Women Under 45 With Early Breast Cancer Appear at Highest Risk of Having Cancer Return, Study Finds
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Age 45 Appears to Be Cutoff

To find out, she and colleagues combed Canadian databases and identified all 574 women diagnosed with DCIS in Ontario from 1994 to 2003 who were 50 or younger at diagnosis and treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation.

The outcomes of the 66 women under age 40 and the 176 women aged 40 to 44 were similar, so they were combined into one group. Then their recurrence rates were compared to those of the 332 women aged 45 to 50.

"Based on our findings, it appears under 45 is perhaps the definition of young age. These appear to be the women at highest risk of recurrence," Kong says.

Bruce G. Haffty, MD, head of radiation oncology at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey in New Brunswick, tells WebMD that the findings emphasize the need for basic research into why younger women appear to have more biologically aggressive breast cancers.

Also, more younger women need to be included in clinical trials whose goal is to find the best treatment for DCIS, he says.

Kong agrees. Among the options that are being tried and need more study are a boost of radiation to the treated area of the breast and treatment with the breast cancer recurrence prevention pill tamoxifen, she says.

"For some women, the option of mastectomy with reconstruction may be reasonable," Kong says. Asked which women, she says, "Those who seem at higher risk of recurrence. It's a discussion each patient must have with her doctor."

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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