Purpose: In breast cancer, in vitro as well as in vivo experiments have shown an inverse relationship between HER-2 and steroid hormone receptors. It is unknown whether circulating estrogens affect HER-2 expression. We hypothesize that the postmenopausal body mass index (BMI) as a surrogate marker for bio-available estrogens, is inversely associated with HER-2 over-expression.
Patients and methods: A total of 535 women over age 50 or with known postmenopausal status, with a unilateral, not previously treated, operable breast cancer were evaluated the evening prior to surgery for body weight, height, abdominal and hip circumference over a 3 years period. Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and BMI were calculated. HER-2, estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor staining was done by immunohistochemistry. All tumours with DAKO 2+ staining were submitted for HER-2 detection by FISH analysis. HER-2 was defined as positive if DAKO 3+ or FISH positive. We assessed the frequency of HER-2 positivity in each of 6 quantiles for all parameters of body composition and tested for a trend in HER-2 expression across the 6 quantiles. Furthermore, we investigated whether BMI contributed, together with other known predictors for HER-2, in a standard multivariate logistic regression model that predicts HER-2 over-expression.
Results: There is a decrease in HER-2 over-expression per increasing quantile of BMI. In a multivariate model-including both steroid receptors-BMI remains an independent predictor for HER-2 over-expression.
Conclusion: In women over age 50 or with known postmenopausal status with an operable breast cancer, there is an inverse association between BMI and HER-2 over-expression.