Aim: Inflammation in carcinoma of the breast may represent an immune response to the tumour, but there is evidence that this response is impaired. Inflammation may also stimulate tumour growth by releasing proteolytic enzymes and angiogenic factors. Prognostic studies have produced conflicting results, but most investigators have not evaluated the different patterns of inflammation. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that moderate or marked diffuse inflammation is associated with a better prognosis. We also tested the 'danger model', which suggests that necrosis is necessary for an effective immune response.
Methods and results: On multivariate analysis of women with stage 1 and 2 tumours (n = 679, median follow-up of 9.8 years), survival was independently associated with diffuse inflammation (relative risk 0.43, 95% confidence interval 0.24, 0.77, P =0.005) in addition to histological grade, axillary lymph node status, tumour size and oestrogen receptor status. The presence or absence of tumour necrosis did not have a clear effect on the relationship between survival and diffuse inflammation.
Conclusions: Moderate or marked diffuse inflammation in breast cancer is associated with a better prognosis, suggesting that the immune effects of the inflammation predominate over the protumour effects.