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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Apr;18(4):1157-66. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-1005. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer in women under the age of 45 years.

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, M4-C308 Seattle, WA 98109-1024, USA.


Little is known about the etiologic profile of triple-negative breast cancer (negative for estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor/human epidermal growth factor), a breast cancer subtype associated with high mortality and inadequate therapeutic options. We undertook this study to assess the risk for triple-negative breast cancer among women 45 years of age and younger in relation to demographic/lifestyle factors, reproductive history, and oral contraceptive use. Study participants were ascertained in two previous population-based, case-control studies. Eligible cases included all primary invasive breast cancers among women ages 20 to 45 years in the Seattle-Puget Sound area, diagnosed between January 1983 and December 1992, for whom complete data was obtained for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor status (n = 897; including n = 187 triple-negative breast cancer cases). Controls were age matched and ascertained via random digit dialing. Oral contraceptive use > or =1 year was associated with a 2.5-fold increased risk for triple-negative breast cancer (95% confidence interval, 1.4-4.3) and no significantly increased risk for non-triple-negative breast cancer (P(heterogeneity) = 0.008). Furthermore, the risk among oral contraceptive users conferred by longer oral contraceptive duration and by more recent use was significantly greater for triple-negative breast cancer than non-triple-negative breast cancer (P(heterogeneity) = 0.02 and 0.01, respectively). Among women < or =40 years, the relative risk for triple-negative breast cancer associated with oral contraceptive use > or =1 year was 4.2 (95% confidence interval, 1.9-9.3), whereas there was no significantly increased risk with oral contraceptive use for non-triple-negative breast cancer among women < or =40 years, nor for triple-negative breast cancer or non-triple-negative breast cancer among women 41 to 45 years of age. In conclusion, significant heterogeneity exists for the association of oral contraceptive use and breast cancer risk between triple-negative breast cancer and non-triple-negative breast cancer among young women, lending support to a distinct etiology.

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