Quantification of Estrogen Receptor Expression in Normal Breast Tissue in Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer and Association With Tumor Subtypes

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Estrogen exposure is important in the pathogenesis of breast cancer and is a contributing risk factor. In this study we quantified estrogen receptor (ER) alpha expression in normal breast epithelium (NBR) in women with breast cancer and correlated it with breast cancer subtypes. Tissue microarrays were constructed from 204 breast cancer patients for whom normal breast tissue away from tumor was available. Slides stained with ER were scanned and expression in normal terminal duct lobular epithelium was quantitated using computer-assisted image analysis. ER expression in normal terminal duct lobular epithelium of postmenopausal women with breast cancer was significantly associated with estrogen and triple (estrogen, progesterone receptors, and HER2) negative phenotypes. Also increased age at diagnosis was significantly associated with ER expression in NBR. ER positivity in normal epithelium did not vary by tumor size, lymph node status, tumor grade, or stage. On the basis of quantitative image analysis, we confirm that ER expression in NBR increases with age in women with breast cancer, and report for the first time, a significant association between ER expression in NBR with ER-negative and triple-negative cancers in postmenopausal women.

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