The level of vascularity within an invasive breast carcinoma is a predictor of metastatic potential and survival. However, little is known about the vascular potential and prognostic value of angiogenesis in preinvasive breast pathology. Women with proliferative breast disease or carcinoma in situ are at increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer. This relative risk increases in correlation with defined histopathological features. We asked whether these early proliferative lesions and carcinoma in situ were capable of inducing a vascular supply. Vascularity in preinvasive archival paraffin-embedded breast tissue from 90 patients was quantified by immunohistochemical identification of vessels using anti-von Willebrand factor. Vascular scores were analyzed with respect to histopathological diagnosis, age at diagnosis, and presence of coincident invasive disease. These data indicate that: (a) the vascularity of histopathologically normal epithelium is greater in breasts containing invasive disease than in breasts lacking invasive disease; (b) simple proliferative breast disease induces a vascular supply greater than that of normal breast epithelium; and (c) vascularity increases in proportion to epithelial lesion progression and relative risk of invasion. These studies indicate that the vascularity of preinvasive breast pathology may be a clinically useful predictor of invasive breast cancer.

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