Some investigators have suggested a decreased prognostic value for conventional prognostic factors over time in patients with breast carcinoma. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of prognostic factors on the risk of death in patients with breast carcinoma over a long follow-up.
The authors assessed clinicopathologic prognostic factors in patients with early-stage breast carcinoma over a follow-up > 25 years and analyzed the variation of their effect on death in consecutive 5-year follow-up intervals. The study included 2410 women who primarily underwent complete surgical resection. Time-dependent variables were analyzed by using different multivariate models.
Four factors were related strongly to the risk of death in the first 5 years: tumor size, histologic grade, the number of involved axillary lymph nodes, and age at diagnosis. After 10–15 years of follow-up, only age at diagnosis was related to the risk of death. The effect of powerful prognostic factors, except age at diagnosis, on the risk of death was time limited, and no effects or very small effects were detectable after 10 years of follow-up.
Conventional and widely accepted prognostic factors may explain a significant portion of early deaths among patients with early-stage breast carcinoma, but they were of limited value to explain late mortality, that also may be influenced by late events, such as new primary malignancies and treatment complications. Cancer 2006. © 2006 American Cancer Society.