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Recurrence Risk for Breast Cancer is Down, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 27, 2014 12:52 PM EST

Advances in medical treatments and screening tools have contributed to the decline in breast cancer patients' recurrence risk, a new study reported. The team from Canada calculated that the risk fell by at least 50 percent from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

For this report, the researchers examined data on 7,178 women who were diagnosed with early to moderately-advanced breast cancer. Their cases occurred during two time periods, which were 1986 to 1992 and 2004 to 2008. The team examined characteristics of the cancers, such as estrogen-receptor status and presence of HER2 protein, during both periods. Breast cancers with HER2 tend to be more aggressive.

The team found that women in the later group had a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer recurrence in comparison to women from the earlier group. Risk fell for every year after the patients were considered cancer-free.

When the team examined cancer recurrence risk not driven by estrogen, they found that the risk after one year of being cancer free was 11 percent in women who had breast cancer during the earlier time period and six percent in women from the later period. The researchers also found that the risk of HER2-positive and estrogen-receptor (ER)-negative cancers recurring also fell from 23 percent to around nine percent.

"It showed we were doing better, but the peaks are still there," said study's lead author, Dr. Karen Gelmon from the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, British Columbia reported by UK Reuters.

The researchers added that even though they did not identify why the recurrence risk of certain types of breast cancers fell, they reasoned that the decline could be due to improved medications and screening methods.

The study, "Comparison of Breast Cancer Recurrence and Outcome Patterns Between Patients Treated From 1986 to 1992 and From 2004 to 2008," was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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