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Plasma Testosterone and Prognosis of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Patients

Posted Nov 30 2008 12:20pm
The below abstract points out what may be the potential challenges for women who have had breast cancer and who also have high levels of testosterone that they naturally produce in their bodies when these women have not been on aromatase inhibitors or have not received other adjuvant therapies.

Originally published as JCO Early Release 10.1200/JCO.2006.09.0118 on June 4 2007

Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 25, No 19 (July 1), 2007: pp. 2685-2690
© 2007 American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Plasma Testosterone and Prognosis of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Patients
Andrea Micheli, Elisabetta Meneghini, Giorgio Secreto, Franco Berrino, Elisabetta Venturelli, Adalberto Cavalleri, Tiziana Camerini, Maria G. Di Mauro, Elena Cavadini, Giuseppe De Palo, Umberto Veronesi, Franca Formelli

From the Department of Preventive and Predictive Medicine; Scientific Directorate; and Chemoprevention Unit, Fondazione IRCCS "Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori"; and the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy

Address reprint requests to Andrea Micheli, PhD, Fondazione IRCCS "Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori," Via Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy; e-mail:

Purpose: High endogenous testosterone is associated with increased breast cancer (BC) risk. We designed this study specifically to assess the long-term prognostic role of testosterone in a cohort of postmenopausal BC patients.

Patients and Methods: We considered 194 postmenopausal women, operated on for early BC (T1-2N0M0), who never received chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, and who participated in a fenretinide BC prevention trial as untreated controls. Blood samples were collected 3 months (median) after surgery; plasma samples, stored at –80°C, were radioimmunoassayed for testosterone. Median follow-up was 14 years. The main end point was any cancer event. Event-free survival was estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method. Hazard ratios (HRs) of events by testosterone level were estimated by the Cox model, adjusting for age, tumor size, and histology.

Results: Patients with high testosterone ( 0.40 ng/mL, median of distribution) had significantly lower event-free survival than those with low testosterone (log-rank P = .004). The adjusted HR of patients with high versus low testosterone was 2.05 (95% CI, 1.28 to 3.27). High testosterone was also associated with a significantly higher risk of BC events (relapse and second primary) with an adjusted HR of 1.77 (95% CI, 1.06 to 2.96). Eleven second primaries (non-BC) occurred in the high-testosterone group, four in the low-testosterone group.

Conclusion: High plasma testosterone strongly predicts poorer prognosis in postmenopausal BC patients not administered adjuvant therapy. Testosterone levels should be determined as part of the prognostic work-up.

Supported by the Italian Association for Cancer Research (ref. 47/03) and the US National Cancer Institute, US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, and the Italian National Research Council.

Presented in part at the Reunião do Grupo para a Epidemiologia e o Registro do Cancro nos Países de Língua Latina, May 4-6, 2005, Lisbon, Portugal.

Authors' disclosures of potential conflicts of interest and author contributions are found at the end of this article.
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