Association between breast cancer and autoimmune thyroid disorders: no increase of lymphocytic infiltrates in breast malignant tissues

J Endocrinol Invest. 2006 Mar;29(3):248-51. doi: 10.1007/BF03345548.


An association between thyroid autoimmunity and breast cancer (BC) has been consistently reported, but the cause of this association is still unknown. The role of lymphocytic infiltration (LI) in breast tumorigenesis is controversial and several data suggest that in BC an increase of lymphoid cell infiltrates or a dysfunctional local immune response may be detected very early during tumor development. Chronic autoimmune thyroiditis is characterized by different degrees of LI in thyroid gland and BC cells share some antigenic properties similar to those detected in thyroid tissue, such as sodium iodide symporter (NIS) and peroxidase activity. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency and amount of LI in malignant and in normal peritumoral breast tissues, as expression of autoimmune morphological changes, in a group of BC patients with thyroid autoimmunity. We suppose that an increased LI in breast tissues of this group of patients may help explain the association between BC and thyroid autoimmunity. The study group included 26 BC patients with thyroperoxidase antibodies positivity (TPOAb+), 14 of them (53.8%) with Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT), and 30 BC patients with no evidence of thyroid autoimmune disorders. Malignant and surrounding normal breast tissues were assessed for LI. The amount of LI was scored as very scanty or scanty (LI S) and moderate or marked (LI M), independently by two expert pathologists. LI S was detected in 19/26 (73.1%) BC tissues from patients with TPOAb positivity and LI M in 7 (26.9%). All BC patients with HT had LI S. LI S was detected in 25/30 (83%) and LI M in 5/30 (17%) of BC tissue from patients with no thyroid autoimmunity. The difference in the amount of LI of BC tissues in patient with or without autoimmune thyroid disorders was not significant. The LI was generally absent or very scanty in remote breast tissue in all cases. In conclusion, in breast malignancies the presence of humoral and/or clinical evidence of thyroid autoimmunity is not associated to autoimmune morphological changes of cancer and peritumoral normal tissue. The LI does not seem to have any role in tumorigenesis in patients with BC and thyroid autoimmunity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Hashimoto Disease / complications
  • Hashimoto Disease / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Thyroid Diseases / complications
  • Thyroid Diseases / immunology*
  • Thyroid Gland / immunology
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology


  • Autoantibodies
  • thyroid microsomal antibodies