Steroid biochemistry and categorization of breast cyst fluid: relation to breast cancer risk

Alberto Angeli, Luigi Dogliotti, Carlo Naldoni, Fabio Orlandi, Barbara Puligheddu, Pasquale Caraci, Lauro Bucchi, Mirella Torta, Paolo Bruzzi

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Patients bearing macrocysts of the breast are at higher risk of later developing cancer. The fluid filling the cysts (breast cysts fluid, BCF) contains unusual amounts of steroid conjugates, first androgen and estrogen sulfates. Measuring BCF cations (K+, Na+) allows categorization of cysts into two major subsets (type I and type II) that are associated with a different degree and/or turnover of apocrine metaplastic cells in the lining epithelium. Type I cysts (high K+/ Na+ ratio) accumulate huge amounts of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, estrone sulfate, androstane-3α, 17β-diol glucuronide, androsterone glucuronide and contain more testosterone and dihydrotestosterone than type II. Conversely, type II cysts (low K+/Na+ ratio) contain more progesterone and pregnenolone. A cohort study was started in 1983 at the Cancer Prevention Center, Ravenna, Italy, with the aim of evaluating the relationships between the biochemistry of BCF and the incidence of breast cancer in women with gross cystic disease (GCD) of the breast. The bimodal distribution of the cationic pattern has been confirmed from data obtained in 798 patients aspirated. The risk of cyst relapse was significantly higher among women with type I cysts or with multiple cysts at presentation. Twelve incident cases of breast cancer have been diagnosed among women whose BCF was categorized. Eleven out of 12 cases had type I or multiple cysts. The cumulative incidence of breast cancer among patients bearing type I cysts was 2.5%. We conclude that women with GCD bearing type I cysts have an increased breast cancer risk when compared with the counterpart bearing type II cysts or the general population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-339
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number4-6
Publication statusPublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology


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