Breast Cancer Recurrence Halved by Radiation

Rate of death by breast cancer also falls with radiotherapy

THURSDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The use of radiotherapy appears to dramatically reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, and somewhat reduce the risk of death from breast cancer, in women who receive radiation after breast-conserving surgery, according to the results of a meta-analysis published online Oct. 20 in The Lancet.

Members of the Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group analyzed data on 10,801 women who participated in 17 randomized trials of radiotherapy versus no radiotherapy following breast-conserving surgical treatment of breast cancer; 8,337 of the women had node-negative or node-positive disease.

The researchers found that radiotherapy reduced the risk of recurrence at 10 years by nearly half, from 35 to 19.3 percent; the risk of death over 15 years was reduced from 25.2 to 21.4 percent. In women with node-negative disease, rates of recurrence and death varied according to age, tumor grade, estrogen-receptor status, use of tamoxifen, and extent of surgery -- characteristics that were highly predictive of degrees of risk reduction.

"After breast-conserving surgery, radiotherapy to the conserved breast halves the rate at which the disease recurs and reduces the breast cancer death rate by about a sixth. These proportional benefits vary little between different groups of women. By contrast, the absolute benefits from radiotherapy vary substantially according to the characteristics of the patient and they can be predicted at the time when treatment decisions need to be made," the authors write.

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