Women over age 50 who have denser breasts are more likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer, researchers warn. Speaking at the European Breast Conference in Vienna, Swedish researchers report that women with denser breasts are twice as likely to suffer breast cancer recurrence than other women. The startling report prompted researchers to warn physicians to consider breast density when preparing treatment and following up on such women.
Dr. Louise Eriksson and her colleagues from the Karonlinska Institute in Stockhlom, Sweden, studied the mammograms and outcomes of 1,774 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50-74 who had volunteered for a larger study of all Swedish women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1993-1995.
Eriksson's team observed that women with breast tissue percentage density (PD) higher than the 18% mean average were more likely to have a breast cancer recurrence.
"We found that if you have a PD diagnosis of 25% or more, you have an almost two-fold increased risk of local recurrence in the breast and surrounding lymph nodes than women with a PD of less than 25%. However, density does not increase the risk of distant metastasis and has no effect on survival."
The researcher pointed out that breast density among postmenopausal women is variable and can decrease with age. In fact her study revealed that women with the lowest breast density had breasts that were less than one percent dense, whereas those with breasts of the highest PD were found to be 75-80% dense.
Breast Cancer Screenings Are Important
Eriksson said that mammogram density was a risk factor for breast cancer development and emphasized the importance of taking this into account when performing breast cancer screenings.
"As far as screening programmes are concerned, it is already known that breast density is a risk factor for the occurrence of breast cancer and that it decreases the sensitivity of mammograms. Our study confirms the importance of taking breast density into account in the screening setting."
The Karolinksa Institute PhD candidate and physician at Stockholm General Hospital also said:"We also see that although mammogram density is one of the strongest risk factors for breast cancer it doesn't seem to influence tumor development in any specific way; for instance it isn't more associated with oestrogen receptor negative tumors, but seems to act as a general stimulator of tumor development."
The Swedish study is important because up to this point scientists had scant and conflicting information about the association between density, tumor characteristics and prognosis followed cancer occurrence.
Erikkson's study, which happens to be one of the largest of its kind, will provide health care providers with a wealth of data from nearly 50% of all breast cancer cases in Sweden between 1993-1995.
The study didn't reveal why breast density is linked to breast cancer recurrence but it does give physicians and their patients something to work with.
EBCC-8 chair, Professor David Cameron from the University of Edinburgh called for further research into the issue. "A number of factors are known that influence mammogram breast density, but more research is needed to know which of these, if any, is responsible for this important observation."
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1
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"Dense Breasts Might Be Linked To Recurring Breast Cancer" copyright © 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.