Background: Terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs) are the anatomical source of most breast cancers. TDLU involution, manifested as atrophy and loss of TDLUs, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk. We hypothesize that breast cancer susceptibility loci are associated with TDLU involution. Accordingly, we evaluated relationships between 25 established breast cancer susceptibility markers and their association with TDLU involution in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank (KTB).

Methods: Subjects were women ages 18-84 (N=680), who had no personal history of any cancer, were not currently taking menopausal hormones, completed a risk factor questionnaire, provided an Oragene® saliva sample, and donated a 10-guage needle tissue core from the upper outer breast quadrant for research. We genotyped 25 known single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with breast cancer risk using TaqMan® assays. Pathologists masked to risk data classified three features inversely related to TDLU involution using one histological section of breast tissue/subject: number of TDLUs per section (TDLU density), TDLU diameters and number of acini per TDLU. SNPS were compared to metrics of TDLU involution categorized in tertiles: TDLU density (0-1, 2-8, 9+), mean TDLU diameter (53-291, 292-415, 416-1143 microns), and mean number of acini per TDLU (2-10, 11-20, 21+). We estimated age-adjusted per-allele odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using ordinal logistic regression models with TDLU measures as the outcome and SNPs as the explanatory variables. Associations with TDLU density were based on up to 680 women with genotype data, while associations with diameter and acini measures were based on up to 469 women with observed TDLUs.

Results: The rs3803662 (TOX3/TNRC9) SNP risk allele showed an association with increased TDLU density, larger TDLUs, and more acini in TDLUs (TDLU density per-allele OR=1.29 95%CI=1.04-1.60; TDLU diameter OR=1.32 95%CI=1.00-1.74; and TDLU acini OR=1.34 95%CI=1.02-1.77), consistent with previous observations of significant associations seen for this SNP with mammographic density (a well-established risk factor for breast cancer), breast cancer risk, and survival of breast cancer. In addition, we observed associations for four other SNPs with TDLU density (rs311499, rs10483813, rs2981582, rs3817198), for one other SNP with mean TDLU diameter (rs11249433), and for three other SNPs with mean TDLU acini number (rs704010, rs10941679, rs11249433).

Conclusion: These data suggest that breast cancer susceptibility SNPs may be associated with TDLU involution levels, and could represent a mechanism by which they influence breast cancer risk. These findings warrant replication in other studies and provide support for the concept that levels of TDLU involution represent an intermediate marker of breast cancer risk.

Citation Format: Jonine D. Figueroa, Gretchen L. Gierach, Ruth Pfeiffer, Stephen Chanock, Louise Brinton, Deesha A. Patel, Daniel Visscher, Carolyn Mies, Stephen Hewitt, Susan Clare, Anna Maria Storniolo, Mark Sherman. Associations between breast cancer susceptibility markers and terminal duct lobular unit involution in normal breast tissues among women from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Post-GWAS Horizons in Molecular Epidemiology: Digging Deeper into the Environment; 2012 Nov 11-14; Hollywood, FL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2012;21(11 Suppl):Abstract nr 58.