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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Dec 1;26(34):5561-8. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.16.0192. Epub 2008 Oct 14.

Roles of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in the development of contralateral breast cancer.

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Department of Epidemiology, the Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Few studies have examined whether modern radiotherapy and chemotherapy affect the risk of contralateral breast cancer (CBC), and results are inconclusive.


We assessed long-term risk of CBC in a predominantly young breast cancer (BC) population (n = 7,221), focusing on the effects of radiation dose, chemotherapy, and family history of BC. Risk of CBC was evaluated using Cox proportional hazards regression models.


Radiotherapy-associated risk of CBC increased with decreasing age at first treatment (age < 35 years, hazard ratio [HR] = 1.78; 95% CI, 0.85 to 3.72; age > 45 years, HR = 1.09; 95% CI, 0.82 to 1.45). Postmastectomy radiotherapy using direct electron fields led to a significantly lower radiation exposure to the contralateral breast than postlumpectomy radiotherapy using tangential fields. Women treated before age 45 years with postlumpectomy radiotherapy experienced 1.5-fold increased risk of CBC compared with those who had postmastectomy radiotherapy. The joint effects of postlumpectomy radiotherapy and strong family history for BC on risk of CBC were greater than expected when individual risks were summed (HR = 3.52; 95% CI, 2.07 to 6.02; P(departure from additivity) = .043). Treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil) was associated with a nonsignificantly decreased risk of CBC in the first 5 years of follow-up but did not reduce CBC risk in subsequent years.


Young patients with BC irradiated with breast tangentials experience increased risk of CBC, especially in those with a positive family history of BC. This finding should be taken into account when advising breast radiation with tangential fields to young patients with BC. Adjuvant chemotherapy seemed to reduce the risk of CBC during the first 5 years after treatment only.

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