Migration studies suggest that the high incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer in Western women is related mainly to epigenetic factors. Progression from ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) also appears to involve environmental rather than genetic factors, and a role has been postulated for metabolic-endocrine changes related to the Western lifestyle. Protein kinase C (PKC) is important in cell signal transduction, and laboratory studies show that PKC stimulates the activities of urokinase plasminogen activator, matrix metalloproteinases and cell adhesion molecules, all of which are known to increase invasiveness in human mammary cancer cell lines. In rodents, the activity of PKC in tissue cells is enhanced by insulin, and PKC isoenzymes have been shown to stimulate the development of hyperinsulinaemic insulin resistance in rodents. Clinically, hyperinsulinaemia and the concomitant increase in circulating levels of free oestradiol and bioactive insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) are each confirmed markers of high risk for breast cancer in women. Lesions of DCIS show evidence of regression with mammary involution, but it is postulated that this may be opposed by the concomitants of hyperinsulinaemic insulin resistance. The prevalence of the latter is increasing in Western populations, and a combination of high IGF1 and low IGF-binding protein 3 concentrations has been associated with the presence of DCIS lesions in premenopausal women. Measures that enhance insulin sensitivity in such women may reduce the risk of progression in DCIS lesions, and a clinical trial is proposed to test the hypothesis.
Stoll BA. Biological mechanisms in breast cancer invasiveness: relevance to preventive interventions. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2000 April Oncology Department, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.