Mitochondrial copy number and risk of breast cancer: a pilot study

Mitochondrion. 2010 Jan;10(1):62-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2009.09.004. Epub 2009 Sep 27.


It has been proposed that the copy number of mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) per cell reflects gene-environment interactions between unknown hereditary factors and exposures affecting levels of oxidative stress. However, whether copy number of mtDNA could be a risk predictor of oxidative stress-related human cancers, such as breast cancer, remains to be determined. To explore the role of mtDNA copy number in breast cancer etiology, we analyzed mtDNA copy number in whole blood from 103 patients with breast cancer and 103 matched control subjects and examined in relation to endogenous antioxidants. Case patients with breast cancer had a statistically significantly higher mtDNA copy number than control subjects (median: 1.29 vs. 0.80, P<0.01). High mtDNA copy number (above the median in controls) was associated with a statistically significantly increased risk of breast cancer, compared with low copy number (Odds ratio (OR)=4.67, 95% CI: 2.45-8.92), with a statistically significant dose-response relationship in trend analysis (P<0.01). Moreover, mtDNA copy number was significantly inversely associated with several important endogenous oxidants and antioxidants in blood in either the cases (total glutathione, CuZn-SOD activity and myeloperoxidase (MPO)) or the controls (catalase (CAT) activity). These results suggest the mtDNA copy number could be associated with risk of breast cancer, perhaps through an oxidative stress mechanism.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Dosage / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pilot Projects
  • Postmenopause
  • Premenopause
  • Risk Factors


  • DNA, Mitochondrial