Incidence of De-Novo Breast Cancer in Women Chronically Immunosuppressed After Organ Transplantation

Lancet. 1995 Sep 23;346(8978):796-8. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(95)91618-0.


In mice, retrovirus-associated breast cancers are promoted by immune mechanisms, and immunosuppression during the premalignant phase reduces the incidence of breast cancer and prolongs life. If some women likewise have immune promotion of breast cancer, the incidence of breast cancer in patients receiving therapeutic immunosuppression should be lower than that in a comparable cohort of non-immunosuppressed women. We examined the incidence of de-novo breast cancer arising in women receiving immunosuppressive therapy after kidney or heart transplantation, comparing the figures with published rates. In 25,914 immunosuppressed women followed for 1-11 years there were 86 cases of breast cancer compared with 113.8 expected (p = 0.009). Incidence was particularly low in the first transplant year with relative risk 0.49, rising to 0.84 in subsequent years. For all other major cancers the incidence was higher in the immunosuppressed women. If, as in mice, the reduced incidence of breast cancer is a direct effect of immunosuppression, these observations raise the possibility of therapeutic manipulation of specific immune mechanisms that promote tumour growth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Transplantation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression / statistics & numerical data*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Transplantation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Steroids / therapeutic use


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Steroids
  • Cyclosporine
  • Azathioprine