Radiation Therapy and Breast Cancer Risk

Authors: Andrea K. Ng MD, MPH a and Lois B. Travis MD, ScD a
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  • a From the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and Rubin Center for Cancer Survivorship and Department of Radiation Oncology, James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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Exposure to ionizing radiation has clearly been established as one of the risk factors for the development of breast cancer. Much data on the relationship between radiation exposures and subsequent breast cancer are derived from atomic bomb survivors and women who received medical exposures either for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. Although these populations differ in background breast cancer risks and the dose, quality, and timing of radiation, consistent findings include an increased risk with younger age at exposure, long latency to breast cancer development, and increasing risk with increasing radiation dose. Although therapeutic radiation is rarely used to treat benign conditions, it remains an important and effective treatment modality for a wide range of cancers. Increased knowledge of radiation-related breast cancer and modifying influences plays an important role in guiding the initial treatment approach for young women and optimizing long-term follow-up care.

The authors have disclosed that they have no financial interests, arrangements, or affiliations with the manufacturers of any products discussed in the article or their competitors.

Correspondence: Andrea K. Ng, MD, MPH, Department of Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis Street, ASB1-L2, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: ang@lroc.harvard.edu
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