Mammographic screening detects low-risk tumor biology breast cancers

Publication Name: Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

Author(s): Drukker CA, Schmidt MK, Rutgers EJT, Cardoso F, Kerlikowske K, Esserman LJ, van Leeuwen FE, Pijnappel RM, Slaets L, Bogaerts J, Van't Veer LJ

Overdiagnosis of breast cancer, i.e. the detection of slow-growing tumors that would never have caused symptoms or death, became more prevalent with the implementation of population-based screening. Only rough estimates have been made of the proportion of patients that are overdiagnosed and identification of those patients is difficult. Therefore, the aim of this study is to evaluate whether tumor biology can help identify patients with screen-detected tumors at such a low risk of recurrence that they are likely to be overdiagnosed. Furthermore, we wish to evaluate the impact of the transition from film-screen mammography (FSM) to the more sensitive full-field digital mammography (FFDM) on the biology of the tumors detected by each screening-modality. All Dutch breast cancer patients enrolled in the MINDACT trial (EORTC-10041) accrued 2007-2011, who participated in the national screening program (biennial screening ages 50-75) were included (n = 1,165). We calculated the proportions of high-, low- and among those the ultralow-risk tumors according to the 70-gene signature for patients with screen-detected (n = 775) and interval (n = 390) cancers for FSM and FFDM. Screen-detected cancers had significantly more often a low-risk tumor biology (68 %) of which 54 % even an ultralow-risk compared to interval cancers (53 % low-, of which 45 % ultralow-risk (p = 0.001) with an OR of 2.33 (p < 0.0001; 95 % CI 1.73-3.15). FFDM detected significantly more high-risk tumors (35 %) compared to FSM (27 %) (p = 0.011). Aside from favorable clinico-pathological factors, screen-detected cancers were also more likely to have a biologically low-risk or even ultralow-risk tumor. Especially for patients with screen-detected cancers the use of tools, such as the 70-gene signature, to differentiate breast cancers by risk of recurrence may minimize overtreatment. The recent transition in screening-modalities led to an increase in the detection of biologically high-risk cancers using FFDM.  See Article