Mayo study links breast tissue structures and cancer risk

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that certain structural features within breast tissue can indicate a woman's individual cancer risk. The findings are in the new issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study shows that the small milk-producing elements in breast tissue can be counted in sample biopsies.

Oncologist Lynn Hartmann says as women age and pass childbearing age, the number of so-called lobules naturally decreases.

But if they are not largely gone by the time a woman is 55, her risk of breast cancer triples.

"We're looking at a woman's own physiology here," Hartmann said. "This fingerprint, if you will, from what the breast tissue is doing gives us an idea of what she has been exposed to, her risks from within, any exposures she's had from without...and shows us what her risk is."

Hartmann says the biopsies that track the change in breast tissue are far more accurate than the current model for breast cancer risk assessment.

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