Estrogen receptor negative breast cancers

Kevin Fox, MD
Last Modified: March 24, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Does breast cancer run along some continuum from estrogen-receptor positive to estrogen-receptor negative tumors? Are ER+ tumors a different disease than ER- tumors? I have been diagnosed with an ER- breast cancer and I am confused as to whether I am at increased risk of recurrence and general guidelines for prevention of recurrence.  


Kevin Fox, MD, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

No breast cancer is purely ER positive or ER negative. Patients can assume that all breast cancers contain some ER+ and ER- cells, and that there is a continuum. The fact is, that tumors that are ER- have a higher recurrence rate than those that are ER+. If you have an ER- cancer: strategies to increase or decrease estrogen levels will have no bearing on your recurrence risk. You need not take special dietary steps to change your recurrence risk.