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Breast cancer survival linked to inflammation

By Julie Steenhuysen
Reuters / May 27, 2009
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CHICAGO - Testing for signs of inflammation in the blood might help doctors better predict which women are at greatest risk of dying from breast cancer, US researchers said yesterday.

They said women with high levels of two markers of inflammation - C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A - were two to three times more likely to die early or have their cancer return than women with lower levels.

The study confirms a link between chronic inflammation and breast cancer recurrence and suggests new approaches for helping women improve their odds of survival.

"Inflammation has been associated with several modifiable risk factors, such as obesity, low physical activity, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can affect a cancer survivor's prognosis," Robert Croyle of the National Cancer Institute, whose study appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, said in a statement.

He said looking for ways to reduce inflammation - through drugs or lifestyle changes - could help improve survival.

While inflammation has been linked with poor survival of a number of other cancers, including prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic and lung cancers, the study is the first to look at the role of inflammation in breast cancer survival.

The researchers studied 1,183 women with early stage breast cancer. They took blood samples and measured levels of both serum amyloid A and C-reactive protein about 2 1/2 years after the initial breast cancer diagnosis.

After 10 years, women who had the highest levels of both compounds were significantly less likely to survive overall, and they also were more likely to have their cancer return.

Women with high levels of amyloid A were three times more likely to die during the study period than other women in the study. And women with high levels of C-reactive protein were two times more likely to die during the study period compared with other women in the study.

This held even after adjusting for other factors, such as age, cancer stage, obesity, and heart problems, the team wrote.

They said studies should look at whether diet and exercise or taking medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or cholesterol-lowering statins might help.

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