It remains unclear whether hyperplastic breast lesions, especially with atypia, are cancer precursors or markers of increased cancer risk. Quantified comparisons of genomic alterations in coexisting lesions could address this question. Therefore, we examined allele imbalance (AI), also known as loss of heterozygosity (LOH), at 20 microsatellite markers on nine chromosome arms, in DNA from 106 samples microdissected from 17 randomly selected cancer-containing breast specimens: 13 simple (DH) and 45 atypical ductal hyperplastic (ADH) lesions, 30 in situ (DCIS) and 18 invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC). Data were analysed using regression models and generalized estimating equations. We found that AI increased as histology became more aberrant and varied with histology across the chromosome arms (p<0.0001). ADH had more AIs on 1q (p=0.03) and 16q (p=0.02) and fewer AIs on 17p (p=0.06) and 17q (p<0.0001) than on other arms. In cancers, AIs remained high on 1q and 16q, and became frequent on 17p and 17q. Concordance between AIs in ADHs and cancers exceeded the 50% expected if the lesions were separate clones in 16/20 (80%) ADHs (p=0.05), from 9/11 (82%) cases (p=0.03), and involved 41/51 (80%) evaluable markers (p=0.05). The occurrence of any AI in ADH predicted greater AI (p=0.009) and possibly lower grade (p=0.05) in coexisting cancers. Nevertheless, ADHs were not genetically identical to cancers or to each other. We found AIs discordant between ADHs and cancers (always on 1q and 16q), AIs unique to ADH (usually on 11q) and some genetic heterogeneity among coexisting ADHs. We conclude that ADH lesions are genetically advanced, with frequent alterations on 1q and 16q, and are often direct cancer precursors. Their global genetic characteristics predict features of cancers in the same breast. Nevertheless, the genetic heterogeneity detected suggests that hyperplasias and cancers may arise on a field at generalized increased cancer risk.
Copyright (c) 2006 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.