Patterns of reduced nipple aspirate fluid production and ductal lavage cellularity in women at high risk for breast cancer

Breast Cancer Res. 2005;7(6):R1017-22. doi: 10.1186/bcr1335. Epub 2005 Oct 24.


Introduction: Nipple aspiration is a noninvasive technique for obtaining breast fluids from the duct openings of the nipple for the evaluation of abnormalities associated with breast cancer. Nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) can be elicited from 48 to 94% of healthy women, and its production has been linked to an increased relative risk for breast cancer development. NAF production has been used in studies to guide the selection of ducts for ductal lavage, a procedure in which ducts are cannulated and flushed with saline to collect cells. In a previous multicenter trial to evaluate intraductal approaches in women at high-risk for breast cancer, NAF production was observed in 84% of the subjects. However, we observed a significantly lower proportion of fluid-yielding subjects in a similar series of high-risk women. The purpose of the present study was to identify variables associated with this reduction.

Method: Nipple aspiration was performed on 33 high-risk women (defined as having a 5-year Gail model index of more than 1.7, a personal or family history of breast cancer, and/or a BRCA1 or BRCA2 germline mutation) to identify ductal orifices for lavage procedures. Lavage was performed on all fluid-yielding ducts and on nine non-fluid-yielding ducts.

Results: Fluid-yielding ducts were identified in 12 of 33 (36%) of the subjects in the present series, compared with 16 of 19 (84%) of the subjects undergoing identical procedures at our facility during a multicenter trial (P = 0.001). Reduced NAF yields were associated with postmenopausal status (P = 0.02), BRCA germline mutations (P = 0.004), and risk reduction therapies, including bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO) and/or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs; P = 0.009). All nine (100%) of the ductal lavage specimens collected from non-fluidyielding ducts were acellular, in comparison with 3 of 13 specimens from fluid-yielding ducts (P < .001).

Conclusion: Analysis of high-risk women in the present series revealed patterns of reduced NAF production and ductal lavage cellularity compared with a previous multicenter trial. The present series included more BRCA-positive women, many of whom had undergone BSO and/or were using SERMs. Our data suggest that endocrine mechanisms associated with these risk-reducing therapies may be related to patterns of diminished breast fluid production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Body Fluids / cytology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / metabolism
  • Nipples / pathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Therapeutic Irrigation