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Breast density can increase risk for cancer, study says

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published January 18, 2007


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BOSTON - Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breasts than in those with the most fatty tissue, a study shows, signaling the importance of a risk factor rarely discussed with patients.

On mammograms, fat looks dark, but dense tissue is light, like tumors, so it can hide the cancers. But this study confirms that cancers are also more frequent - not just hidden - in women with dense breasts.

That means that density is a true risk factor, along with other strong predictors like age and the genes BRCA1 and 2. Yet specialists say that breast density is rarely considered with other risk factors in discussions between doctors and patients.

Breast density comes from the presence of more connective, duct-lining and milk-gland tissue than fat. But a woman can't judge her own density; it is routinely evaluated from a mammogram.

The Canadian study by cancer centers in Toronto and Vancouver will be reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

For now, women can ask their doctor about their breast density based on a mammogram and how it might affect their risk. However, experts say it's too soon for doctors to provide solid advice to individual patients. Quicker, more accurate tools are needed to measure density.

 

[Last modified January 18, 2007, 00:25:47]


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