Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Rochester, Minnesota

My name's Lynn Hartmann. I'm a medical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, and we work in breast cancer, specifically better risk prediction for the development of breast cancer.

Today, as we screen women, we pretty much treat all women as if they were at equal risk. We start mammography screening at 40 and clinical breast exam with the exception of BRCA carriers who are quite uncommon.

Can we do a better job of separating women into risk strata from the general population? And our approach is to use benign breast tissue to do this. And there are various features we can look at in that tissue.

This is tissue that's obtained for biopsies of a concerning area but in fact they are benign. For instance, we looked at the background lobules in breast tissue which are shown in this picture here. These are milk-forming structures. They also happen to be with increasing age, structures that give rise to breast cancer. This is a normal lobule in a whole field of lobules -- normal breast tissue in a younger woman. As she ages, this is supposed to happen. These lobules aren't needed anymore, she's passed her reproductive years; they should regress. You don't see anything differently from the outside but the number is way down.

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We found that when this process occurs properly risk of breast cancer is dramatically reduced. If for some reason it hasn't occurred, the risk is at least twice that of women where it has.

We're interested in what drives this process, what stimulates it, because if it's not occurring naturally, could it be stimulated medically to in fact result in risk reduction in women who have passed their reproductive years?

Click here for more info on breast cancer treatment and research at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Minn.

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