The number of long-term breast cancer survivors with a risk of late recurrence is increasing. Hormone-receptor-positive patients have greater risks of late recurrence. Although several studies demonstrated that extended adjuvant endocrine therapy reduces the incidence of late recurrence, it remains unclear which hormone-receptor-positive patients have greater risks of late recurrence. Hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer patients were retrospectively selected from the prospective database of primary breast cancer patients treated at Keio University Hospital from January 1989 to December 2003. Late recurrence was defined as initial recurrence after 5 years from the initial surgery. We evaluated the clinicopathologic features of breast cancer patients with late recurrence. At a median follow-up of 10.9 years (range, 5.1-23.8), 371 patients had no recurrence, 90 had early recurrence (within 5 years), and 83 had late recurrence. Multivariate analysis revealed that >4 involved lymph nodes were significant risk factors for late recurrence (P <.001), whereas 1-3 positive nodes were not. Endocrine therapy significantly reduced the incidence of late recurrence (P <.001). After menopause, adjuvant therapy with aromatase inhibitors resulted in longer disease-free survival than tamoxifen (10-year disease-free survival: 97.6% vs 89.7%, P =.0955). High nodal involvement was significantly correlated with late recurrence in hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer patients. Hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer patients who receive adjuvant endocrine therapy with tamoxifen alone might be candidates for extended endocrine therapy.
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