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Breast Cancer Risk Related to Changes in Breast Density as Women Age
Date:12/2/2013

objective and, therefore, quantitative density measurement that is reproducible."

Breast cancer patients showed higher mammographic density than healthy participants up to the age of 50. The healthy controls demonstrated a significant decline in density with age following a linear pattern, while there was considerably more variability in density regression among the breast cancer patients.

"The results are interesting, because there would appear to be some form of different biological density mechanism for normal breasts compared to breasts with cancer, and this appears to be most obvious for younger women," Dr. Perry said. "This is not likely to diminish the current ACS guidelines in any way, but it might add a new facet regarding the possibility of an early mammogram to establish an obvious risk factor, which may then lead to enhanced screening for those women with the densest breasts."

For instance, some women might undergo a modified exposure exam at age 35 to establish breast density levels, Dr. Perry noted. Those with denser breast tissue could then be followed more closely with mammography and additional imaging like MRI or ultrasound for earlier cancer detection and treatment.

"It has been estimated that about 40 percent of life years lost to breast cancer are from women under 50 diagnosed outside of screening programs," Dr. Perry said. "In my practice, which is largely composed of urban professional women, 40 percent of cancers year to year are diagnosed in women under 50, and 10 percent in women younger than 40."

Co-authors are Katja Pinker-Domenig, M.D., Kefah Mokbel, M.B.B.S., FRCS, Sue E. Milner, B.Sc., and Stephen W. Duffy, M.Sc.

AT A GLANCE

  • The rate at which breast density changes in some women as they age may affect their breast cancer risk
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SOURCE Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)
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