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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 Nov;10(11):1117-20.

Reversal of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist induced reductions in mammographic densities on stopping treatment.

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Institute of Community Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway.


Previously, we described the reduction in mammographic densities that occurred in premenopausal women after 12 months on a hormonal regimen designed to be chemopreventive for breast (and ovarian) cancer consisting of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHA) plus low-dose add-back estrogen-progestin. We sought to determine whether the density reduction persisted with continuation of the regimen for 24 months, and, if so, whether the densities would return to baseline after the regimen was discontinued. Twenty-one women, 27-40 years of age, with a 5-fold greater than normal risk of breast cancer, were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to the treatment group (14 women) and to a control group (7 women). The percentage of mammographic densities, calculated as the proportion of the breast area on the mammogram containing densities, were assessed blindly using a computer-based threshold method at baseline, after 12 and 24 months of treatment, and at between 6 and 12 months after treatment was stopped. The previously described percentage of mammographic density reductions of 9.7% (P = 0.012) after 12 months of treatment were increased slightly to 11.4% (P = 0.010) after 24 months of treatment, but the additional change was not statistically significant. Ten of 11 treated women assessed at 24 months had reduced percentages of mammographic densities compared with baseline. Six to 12 months after completion of treatment, the mean percentage of mammographic density in the treated group was no different from that at baseline (mean decline of 2.0%; P = 0.73). The women in the control group had no statistically significant changes in densities over the period of the study. Reductions in mammographic densities engendered by the GnRHA plus a low-dose add-back estrogen-progestin regimen persist as long as the women receive treatment. The densities return to baseline when the women resume normal menstrual cycles. These results confirm that mammographic densities are influenced by ovarian function. Improved efficacy of mammographic screening is to be expected as long as a woman continues on such a regimen. Whether such a regimen is chemopreventive for breast cancer remains to be established, but the recent report on a randomized trial of use of GnRHA alone in premenopausal breast cancer cases showing a marked reduction in incidence of contralateral disease provides strong support for the hypothesis.

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