Benign breast disease (BBD) is a risk factor for breast cancer and may have a heritable component. Deficient DNA repair has been implicated in breast cancer etiology and may exert its effect before BBD, a known precursor. The association between allelic variants in DNA repair genes and BBD was examined in a cohort of women in Washington County, Maryland. BBD was defined by two criteria: (a) a physician diagnosis of BBD or fibrocystic disease and/or (b) a benign breast biopsy. 3,212 women without BBD at baseline were genotyped for 12 candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms in seven DNA repair genes. Of these women, 482 subsequently reported a diagnosis of BBD. The Cox model was used to calculate hazard ratios (HR). Variant alleles of XRCC1 Arg194Trp (rs1799782) and ERCC4 Arg415Gln (rs1800067) were significantly associated with BBD [HR, 1.36; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.06-1.74 and HR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.09-1.76, respectively]. Similar estimates were also observed for each of the BBD criterion used. The BBD association for ERCC4 was even stronger among women with a family history of breast cancer (HR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.52-4.66; Pinteraction = 0.02). This study suggests that variant alleles in DNA repair genes may modify BBD risk, a potential intermediate marker of breast cancer risk, particularly among high-risk subgroups.
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