Breast cancer biology differs in older women

U. NOTTINGHAM (UK) — Breast cancer in women over 70 has a less aggressive and distinct biology—findings that could lead to improvements in treatment and outcomes.

That older women have a unique biological type of breast cancer—low estrogen receptor luminal—supports observations as to why breast cancers in this age group appear to have different behaviors. The findings have recently been published in British Journal of Cancer.


“As age advances breast cancer appears to change its biological characteristics, but we still don’t know enough about the precise differences between older and younger patients,” says study leader Kwok-Leung Cheung of the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health at the University of Nottingham.

“A lot of work stills needs to be done in this challenging area of cancer research to improve the care of older breast cancer patients.”

Age is an important risk factor of breast cancer and one-third of cases occur in women over the age of 70. Older patients tend to present with other medical conditions and a considerable proportion eventually die from non-breast cancer causes. However, there is an under-representation of older women in related studies.

“Given this lack of data, our study is unique and important for being a large series from a single center, characterizing breast cancer specifically in older women, correlating the biology with long-term clinical outcome and also comparing them with the younger series from the same unit.”

Lizzie Magnusson, policy and campaigns manager at Breast Cancer Care, says: “Increasing evidence points to many older patients receiving later diagnosis and under treatment. We hope that this research can be built on and ultimately contribute to improved survival rates among older women.”

Binafsha Syed carried out the research as part of a PhD scholarship funded by her home institution, Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro/Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Source: University of Nottingham