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Dense breasts can nearly double the risk of breast cancer recurrence
Date:3/21/2012

Vienna, Austria: Women aged 50 and over with breasts that have a high percentage of dense tissue are at greater risk of their breast cancer recurring, according to Swedish research presented at the eighth European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-8) in Vienna today (Wednesday).

Dr Louise Eriksson and her colleagues from the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) found that women with denser breasts had nearly double the risk of their cancer recurring, either in the same breast or in the surrounding lymph nodes, than women with less dense breasts. They warn that doctors should take breast density into account when making decisions about treatment and follow-up for these women.

When a woman has a mammogram, the resulting scan gives an image of the breast that shows areas of white and black. The white areas represent the dense tissue, made up of the epithelium and stroma [1]. The black areas are made up of fatty tissue, which is not dense. The percentage density (PD) of the breast is calculated by dividing the dense area by the area of the whole breast (dense and non-dense tissue included).

Breast density varies from woman to woman, and it also decreases with age. Dr Eriksson explained: "Density can vary greatly, even between postmenopausal women. In the group of women I studied, those with the lowest percentage density had breasts that were less than one percent dense, whereas those with highest PD had 75-80% dense breasts. The mean average PD was 18%. However, density does decrease with age. Studies have shown a decrease by approximately two percent per year. The largest decrease is seen at menopause when PD decreases by approximately 10%."

The researchers studied the mammograms and outcomes for 1,774 post-menopausal women who were aged 50-74 and who were part of a larger study of all women with breast cancer diagnosed between 1993-1995 in Sweden.

"We found that if you have a PD at diagnosis of 25% or more, you have
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation
Source:Eurekalert

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