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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2005 Jun;12(2):185-213.

Breast-tissue sampling for risk assessment and prevention.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, KA 66160, USA.


Breast tissue and duct fluid provide a rich source of biomarkers to both aid in the assessment of short-term risk of developing breast cancer and predict and assess responses to prevention interventions. There are three methods currently being utilized to sample breast tissue in asymptomatic women for risk assessment: nipple-aspirate fluid (NAF), random periareolar fine-needle aspiration (RPFNA) and ductal lavage. Prospective single-institution trials have shown that the presence of atypical cells in NAF fluid or RPFNA specimens is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, RPFNA-detected atypia has been observed to further stratify risk based on the commonly used Gail risk-assessment model. A prospective trial evaluating risk prediction on the basis of atypical cells in ductal-lavage fluid is ongoing. The ability of other established non-genetic biomarkers (mammographic breast density; serum levels of bioavailable estradiol, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor-1 and its insulin like growth factor binding protein-3) to stratify risk based on the Gail model is as yet incompletely defined. Modulation of breast intra-epithelial neoplasia (i.e. hyperplasia with or without atypia) with or without associated breast-tissue molecular markers, such as proliferation, is currently being used to evaluate response in Phase II chemoprevention trials. RPFNA has been the method most frequently used for Phase II studies of 6-12 months duration. However, ductal lavage, RPFNA and random and directed core needle biopsies are all being utilized in ongoing multi-institutional Phase II studies. The strengths and weaknesses of each method are reviewed.

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