Body mass index (BMI) is an important risk factor for breast cancer development and invasiveness. After menopause, women have an increased risk of developing breast cancer with increased BMI, while increased BMI may provide a protective effect for women who haven’t entered menopause. The exact mechanism behind the increased risk in women after menopause is still not fully understood. Now, a study from researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center shows that the presence of high saturated fatty acids in breast tissue may be a useful indicator of cancer in postmenopausal women; specifically, the researchers used a new imaging technique to identify the relationship between fatty acids and breast cancer. The team state that their findings may one day lead to greater understanding of breast cancer development and the role of fat as a factor in breast cancer diagnosis and progression. The opensource study is published in the journal Radiology.
Previous studies show that postmenopausal women are at increased risk for breast cancer as their BMI increases. In addition to overall body fat, fat composition may play a role in cancer development. Fat composition can be measured by using a variety of different methods, including estimation from dietary fat intake surveys, ex vivo chemical analysis, ex vivo tissue spectroscopy, and in vivo spectroscopy. However, studies that evaluated the effect of the composition of dietary fat intake and cancer risk showed conflicting results. The current study demonstrates the feasibility of noninvasive, in vivo imaging to measure fatty acid in breast adipose tissue and investigates associations between fatty acid in breast adipose tissue and breast cancer status by using this method.
The current study developed a new approach to a type of MRI that provides information on the chemical composition of the tissue, in order to measure fat composition. The lab analyzed imaging sequences from a total of 89 women who were, on average, approximately 48 years-old. Fifty-eight women were premenopausal and 31 women were postmenopausal with each patient’s height, weight, and BMI recorded. Results show that the novel method, called gradient-echo spectroscopic imaging, provides information on various types of fatty acids based on a series of three-dimensional MRI images acquired for five minutes.
The group state that all women received an additional 5-minute scan of three-dimensional multiple gradient echo sequences at the end of their diagnostic MRI exams. Results show that forty-nine patients had benign breast tissue, 12 had ductal carcinoma, and 28 had invasive ductal carcinoma. Data findings show that compared to the benign breast tissue of postmenopausal women, the breast tissue in postmenopausal women with invasive ductal carcinoma was comprised of a higher percentage of saturated fats and a lower percentage of monounsaturated fats. The researcher explain that these findings suggest high-saturated fatty acids and low monounsaturated fatty acids may be associated with invasive cancer.
Results show that of the women with benign lesions, postmenopausal women exhibited higher polyunsaturated fatty acids and lower saturated fatty acids than the premenopausal women. Data findings show no significant correlation between BMI and fatty acids in breast tissue, suggesting that the composition of fats could be more indicative of breast cancer. The group stress that further research is needed to determine how these fats, which are created in the body and are not correlated with dietary intake, may influence cancer development.
The team surmise that their study offers the first evidence, seen in breast tissue, that saturated fatty acids in the breast adipose tissue are associated with presence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. For the future, the researchers state that this practical technique could easily be implemented in a clinical setting and with further research, it could potentially change how the global medical community looks at breast cancer imaging.
Source: NYU Langone Medical Center