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False-Positive Mammograms could be a Sign of Increased Breast Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 03, 2015 11:45 AM EST

Getting false-positive mammograms can be a sign of increased breast cancer risk, a new study found.

For this study, the team led by Louis Henderson of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, examined 2.2 million mammograms that was conducted on 1.3 million female patients over the age of 40 from 1994 to 2009. They found that women who had false-positive test results ended up having a 39 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer within the next 10 years when compared to women who tested negative.

The researchers also found that women whose had false-positive mammograms that appeared to be very serious cases of breast cancer that required a biopsy were 76 percent more likely to develop breast cancer later on.

"We also found that women with a history of a false-positive result continued to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer 10 years after experiencing the false-positive result," Henderson said reported by NBC News.

The researchers noted that absolute risk of developing breast cancer was still relatively low. They cautioned that women with dense breasts should be more aware of their risk since density has been tied to breast cancer.

"The highest risk of breast cancer observed in our study was among women with extremely dense breasts who had false-positive results with a biopsy recommendation," the team wrote.

Henderson added, reported in the press release, "We don't want women to read this and feel worried. We intend for our findings to be a useful tool in the context of other risk factors" such as age, race, and family history of breast cancer."

False-positive mammograms have often been considered a risk of breast cancer by several experts. The National Cancer Institute will account for that factor in their risk calculator.

"(These are) not entirely surprising findings as we have long known that women with benign breast disease on biopsy are at increased risk of developing breast cancer," Dr. Therese Bevers of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who was not involved in the study, said.

The study's findings were published in the journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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