Open Access Research article

Polymorphisms in estrogen-metabolizing and estrogen receptor genes and the risk of developing breast cancer among a cohort of women with benign breast disease

Lisa Gallicchio12*, Sonja I Berndt1, Meghan A McSorley1, Craig J Newschaffer1, Lucy W Thuita1, Pedram Argani3, Sandra C Hoffman1 and Kathy J Helzlsouer12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

2 Prevention and Research Center, The Weinberg Center for Women's Health and Medicine, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

3 Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:173  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-173

Published: 29 June 2006



A cohort study was conducted to examine the role of genetic polymorphisms in three estrogen metabolizing enzymes (COMT, CYP1A1, CYP1B1) and the two estrogen receptors (ESR1, ESR2) in the progression of benign breast disease (BBD) to breast cancer.


Among participants in an ongoing cohort study, 1438 Caucasian women had a breast biopsy for BBD and were successfully genotyped for at least one of the polymorphisms examined in this study. Genotypes were determined using DNA extracted from blood specimens collected in 1989. Incident cases of breast cancer occurring subsequent to BBD diagnosis up to 2003 were identified through cancer registries.


Among all participants, the ESR2 *5772G allele was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of breast cancer among women with BBD (Odds Ratio (OR) 0.38; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.15, 0.96). Compared to the reference wild-type genotypes, marginally significant associations with the development of breast cancer were observed between carriers of the variant ESR1 – 104062T allele (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.45, 1.09), the variant ESR2 *38A allele (OR 1.40; 95% CI 0.88, 2.25), and the variant CYP1B1 453Ser allele (OR 1.48, 95% CI 0.95, 2.32).


The results indicate that specific polymorphisms in the CYP1B1, ESR1, and ESR2 genes may play a role in progression of BBD to breast cancer among Caucasian women. Although additional studies are needed to confirm or refute our findings, these results suggest that genetic markers may aid in the identification of women who are at risk for progression of BBD to cancer.