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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 Mar;10(3):243-8.

Growth factors and stromal matrix proteins associated with mammographic densities.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology and Statistics, Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto, Canada.


Extensive radiologically dense breast tissue is associated with a marked increase in breast cancer risk. To explore the biological basis for this association, we have examined the association of growth factors and stromal matrix proteins in breast tissue with mammographic densities. Ninety-two formalin-fixed paraffin blocks of breast tissues surrounding benign lesions were obtained, half from breasts with little or no density and half from breasts with extensive density, matched for age at biopsy. Sections were stained for cell nuclei, total collagen, the stromal matrix regulatory protein tissue metalloproteinase-3 (TIMP-3), and the growth factors, transforming growth factor-alpha and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I). The area of immunoreactive staining was measured using quantitative microscopy. Breast tissue from subjects with extensive densities had a greater nuclear area (P = 0.007), as well as larger stained areas of total collagen (P = 0.003), TIMP-3 (P = 0.08), and IGF-I (P = 0.02) when compared with subjects with little breast density. Differences were greater for subjects less than 50 years of age. These data indicate that increased tissue cellularity, greater amounts of collagen, and increased IGF-I and TIMP-3 expression are found in tissue from mammographically dense breasts and suggest mechanisms that may mediate the associated increased risk of breast cancer.

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