Morphological and biological observations relating to the development and progression of breast cancer

  • Thomas J. Anderson
  • William R. Miller
Part of the Cancer Treatment and Research book series (CTAR, volume 71)

Abstract

Mammary glands are basically modified sweat glands comprising a group of ducts descending from the skin in a radial system of dichotomously branching structures. The human female is unique in that the breast develops fully without the stimulus of copulation or pregnancy. Indeed, there are three overlapping phases of activity that can conveniently be termed structural, functional, and differentiated. The first is associated with puberty, the second with ovulatory menstrual cycles, and only the last with pregnancy and lactation. During the structural phase, the lengthening ducts descend into the fibrous disc below the nipple, extending within and along the contours of the fat spaces, giving rise to an inverted tree-like parenchymal structure. A crucial distinction of the human female from the other members of her species is the virginal development of terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs). These units are spherical or conical in shape due to the compact arrangement of multiple short branchings of the smaller blind-ended ductules, usually enclosed in a specialized stroma (figure 1). They form in groups and individually from the sides and ends of major, intermediate, and small ducts, measure well under 1 mm, and are situated most commonly in the outer third of the breast disc and axillary tail, often amounting to tens of thousands in number. The TDLUs consists of several cell types; the parenchymal branching component is composed of two principal cells, the luminal cuboidal or columnar epithelium and an outer layer of myo-epithelium, all enclosed by a basement membrane; on the opposite stromal side of the membrane lie fibroblasts and a loose textured collagen containing ground substance, traversed by small blood vessels and a variable component of lymphocytes, macrophages, and plasma cells. This intralobular stroma is usually distinguished microscopically from the denser collagen containing extralobular stroma, which is itself surrounded by fat cells. The adipose tissue composes the bulk of the breast, but it is the parenchymal and stromal components that constitute the responsive elements of the basic functioning unit that will become fully differentiated during pregnancy and lactation.

Keywords

Estrogen Tyrosine Polypeptide Luminal Tamoxifen 

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Anderson
  • William R. Miller

There are no affiliations available

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