Literature data suggest that breast cancers occurring in young patients may be different from those arising in older women. In this study the clinicopathologic characteristics of 50 patients under 40 years of age were compared with those of patients aged over 60. Patients under 40 years old more frequently had a family history of breast cancer than did older patients (24% vs 17%) and had more often used oral contraceptives (29% vs 13%); on average they had experienced menarche 1 year earlier. For early onset breast carcinomas there was a higher frequency of grade 3 tumours (38% vs 17%) and oestrogen receptor negativity (46% vs 20%). In addition, in younger patients the carcinomas were mostly DNA aneuploid (78% vs 58%), with a higher proliferation rate (48% vs 26%) and more frequent c-erbB-2 overexpression (48% vs 26%) and p53 alteration (30% vs 8%). Our data demonstrate that breast cancers arising in young women have a significantly different biopathological profile from those in older patients, with a predominance of unfavourable prognostic parameters.
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