Medline: 8416252

Journal of the National Cancer Institute 85(1): 25-31, 1993.

Breast cancer after treatment of Hodgkin's disease.

Hancock SL, Tucker MA, Hoppe RT


Most studies of survivors of Hodgkin's disease have shown a low risk for subsequent breast cancer, even though much lower doses of radiation than those used for Hodgkin's disease have been shown to induce breast cancer in other settings.

This study quantifies the risk of breast cancer following Hodgkin's disease treatment according to age at treatment and type of treatment.

To evaluate the risk of breast cancer from irradiation, we reviewed records of 885 women treated for Hodgkin's disease between 1961 and 1990 (mean follow-up, 10 years). Risks for breast cancer incidence and mortality were calculated by comparison with expected rates for a general female population matched by age and race.

Twenty-five patients have developed invasive breast cancer, yielding a relative risk (RR) of 4.1 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.5-5.7). An additional patient developed multifocal carcinoma in situ. Age at irradiation strongly influenced risk: RR was 136 for women treated before 15 years of age (95% CI = 34-371). RR declined with age at irradiation (P for trend < .0001), but the elevation remained statistically significant for subjects less than 30 years old at the time of irradiation (for those 15-24, RR = 19 [95% CI = 10.3-32]; for those 24-29, RR = 7 [95% CI = 3.2-14.4]). In women above 30 years of age, the risk was not elevated (RR = 0.7; 95% CI = 0.2-1.8). Risk of breast cancer increased significantly with time since treatment (P for trend < .0001). The RR was 2.0 (95% CI = 1.0-3.5) with follow-up under 15 years and 13.6 (95% CI = 7.9-18.2) with follow-up equal to or exceeding 15 years. The addition of mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone chemotherapy to irradiation increased the risk within the first 15 years. Most breast cancers (22 of 26) arose within or at the margin of the radiation field and were infiltrating ductal carcinomas. Stage distribution and outcome suggest that the increased incidence was not solely attributable to vigilant screening. RR of death from breast cancer was 5.1 (95% CI = 2.2-10.0).

Women treated for Hodgkin's disease with radiation before 30 years of age are at markedly increased risk for breast cancer, with risk increasing dramatically more than 15 years after therapy. IMPLICATIONS: The high RR for development of breast cancer in women exposed to therapeutic radiation under 30 years of age raises important issues about optimal treatment strategies for patients with Hodgkin's disease, breast cancer, and other cancers.

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