Women with Dense Breasts Have Higher Cancer Risk

November 2018

Women with Dense Breasts Have Higher Cancer Risk

Having dense breasts can make breast cancer harder to spot during mammography. This is because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, as do tumors and other potential problems.

Doctor talking with woman

Now a study in Radiology finds that women with dense breasts are also more likely to have breast cancer than those with less dense tissue.

Higher cancer rates and larger tumors in women with dense breasts

The study looked at about 300,000 mammograms of more than 100,000 Norwegian women ages 50 to 69. During the screening, the researchers used special software to measure breast density.

Results showed that women with dense breasts had slightly higher rates of breast cancer (6.7 cases per 1,000 exams) than women with non-dense breasts (5.5 cases in every 1,000 exams). Women with dense breasts also had larger tumors and were more likely to have tumors that had spread to their lymph nodes.

Talk with your doctor about screening options

The best way to find breast cancer early is to have regular mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk have regular mammograms starting at age 45. Other expert guidelines differ.

While no additional breast cancer screening is recommended for women with dense breasts, some states require that mammography providers notify women whether they have dense breast tissue. Talk with your doctor about your own breast density and your specific screening needs.

Use the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to learn more about your risk for breast cancer.

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