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N Engl J Med. 1999 Feb 11;340(6):430-6.

Radial scars in benign breast-biopsy specimens and the risk of breast cancer.

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Department of Pathology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Radial scars are benign breast lesions of uncertain clinical significance. In particular, it is not known whether these lesions alter the risk of breast cancer in women with benign breast disease. We conducted a case-control study of women who had benign breast lesions with or without radial scars.


We reviewed benign breast-biopsy specimens from 1396 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study, including 255 women in whom breast cancer subsequently developed and 1141 women without subsequent breast cancer (controls). The controls were matched to the women with subsequent breast cancer according to age and the year when the benign lesion was identified. The median follow-up after biopsy of the benign lesions was 12 years.


Radial scars were identified in biopsy specimens from 99 women (7.1 percent). Most biopsy specimens with radial scars had only one radial scar (60.6 percent), and they tended to be incidental microscopical findings (median size, 4.0 mm). The women with radial scars had a risk of breast cancer that was almost twice the risk of the women without scars, regardless of the histologic type of benign breast disease (relative risk, 1.8; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 2.9). Among women who had proliferative disease without atypia as compared with women who had nonproliferative disease, the relative risk of breast cancer was 3.0 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.7 to 5.5) for those with radial scars and 1.5 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 2.1) for those without radial scars. Among women with atypical hyperplasia as compared with women with nonproliferative disease, the relative risk of breast cancer was 5.8 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.7 to 12.7) for those with radial scars and 3.8 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.4 to 5.9) for those without radial scars.


Radial scars are an independent histologic risk factor for breast cancer.

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