Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center

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White adipose tissue inflammation in early-stage breast cancer

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Photo of Dr Andrew DannenbergDr. Andrew Dannenberg Chronic inflammation of visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) is associated with increased levels of proinflammatory mediators that promote the development of insulin resistance and diabetes and that confer worse prognosis in breast cancer patients. To clarify the relationship between breast WAT inflammation and the metabolic syndrome, Andrew Dannenberg, M.D, and colleagues at Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center examined two independent groups in a cross-sectional study (women undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer risk reduction or treatment) and a retrospective study (women who developed metastatic breast cancer).

In these studies, breast WAT inflammation, defined by the presence of crown-like structures (composed of a dead or dying adipocyte surrounded by macrophages) of the breast, was associated with hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia, and elevated circulating C-reactive protein and IL6. Additionally, the presence of breast WAT inflammation at breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a worse breast cancer prognosis in women who developed metastatic disease.

This suggests that breast WAT inflammation may be a stronger predictor of breast cancer outcomes than BMI and warrants further study.

This brief first appeared in Nutrition Frontiers, a publication of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Prevention.