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Breast Density Linked To Second-Cancer Risk

October 11, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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More evidence of of breast density as a risk factor for breast cancer comes from a study that indicates denser breasts are associated with increased risk for a second occurrence of cancer, especially in the opposite breast from that originally affected.

Kaiser Permanente researchers conducted a cohort study of 935 women who had been diagnosed with a very early form of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and who had been treated with breast-conserving surgery between 1990 and 1997 at Kaiser Permanente of Northern California.

Of those 935, 164 had a subsequent cancer on the originally affected breast, and 59 had a new primary cancer on the other breast. Increased breast density was associated more with an increased risk of cancer in the originally nonaffected breast, rather than in the originally affected breast.

“While risk was elevated for both breasts, the increase was greatest and most consistent for the breast opposite to the one with the initial cancer,” said Laurel A. Habel, PhD, the study’s lead author, as quoted in an American Association for Cancer Research news release. Dr. Habel is a research scientist for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California.

The study results are published in the October issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. They were in line with results from an earlier study by Dr. Habel and associates that had found that patients with DCIS who had higher breast density had two to three times increased risk for a second breast cancer.

Dr. Habel said additional studies will be needed to confirm the risk estimates. “Information on mammographic density may help with treatment decisions for ductal carcinoma in situ patients,” she said. “While it’s not a strong enough risk factor on its own, it may be possible to combine it with other factors to improve risk assessment and inform treatment decisions.”

Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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