This study aimed to identify the characteristics of the vascular network in the superficial subcutaneous layer of the breast and to analyze differences between breasts with cancer and contralateral unaffected breasts using vessel branching points (VBPs) detected by three-dimensional photoacoustic imaging with a hemispherical detector array. In 22 patients with unilateral breast cancer, the average VBP counts to a depth of 7 mm below the skin surface were significantly greater in breasts with cancer than in the contralateral unaffected breasts (p < 0.01). The ratio of the VBP count in the breasts with cancer to that in the contralateral breasts was significantly increased in patients with a high histologic grade (p = 0.03), those with estrogen receptor-negative disease (p < 0.01), and those with highly proliferative disease (p < 0.01). These preliminary findings indicate that a higher number of VBPs in the superficial subcutaneous layer of the breast might be a biomarker for primary breast cancer.
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