• nipple aspirate fluid;
  • serum;
  • inflammation;
  • YKL-40;
  • tissue


Serum levels of YKL-40 have been associated with inflammatory diseases and breast cancer. Our purpose was to determine if YKL-40 in breast tissue, nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) and serum is (i) concentrated in NAF compared to matched serum, (ii) increased in the NAF, serum or tissue of women with biopsy proven precancer or cancer compared to healthy women and (iii) influenced by menopausal status. 118 women (61 healthy subjects, 10 with precancer and 47 with breast cancer) aged 17–95 years provided NAF with or without serum samples for analysis. Matched tissue was analyzed from a subset of subjects who underwent breast biopsy. All NAF and serum samples had detectable levels of YKL-40. Median YKL-40 levels for the entire cohort were 683 fold higher in NAF than serum. Premenopausal subjects had higher NAF and lower serum levels of YKL-40 than postmenopausal subjects. YKL-40 levels in NAF but not serum were higher in women with precancer (atypical hyperplasia and lobular carcinoma in situ) than in either healthy subjects (p = 0.025) or subjects with breast cancer (p = 0.015). In women with precancer, YKL-40 distribution in tissue correlated with YKL serum level (p = 0.043). YKL-40 is concentrated in NAF, with the highest concentrations in premenopausal women. NAF levels of YKL-40 are significantly higher in women with precancers than healthy subjects, suggesting that measuring YKL-40 in NAF may improve the identification of women at increased breast cancer risk. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.