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Breast Cancer: Dense Breasts a Risk Factor in Younger Women

Update Date: Dec 04, 2013 01:49 PM EST

Younger women with denser breasts boast relatively higher risk of developing breast cancer, reported MedPage Today.

In a study,  Nicholas Perry, MBBS, of the London Breast Institute in England, and colleagues reported at the Radiological Society of North America meeting that the breast density in patients with breast cancer was higher than in healthy control group women through the age of 50, but the relationship lost consistency after that age.

According to Perry, it suggests "some form of different biological density mechanism" for women with normal breasts compared with those who get cancer, and it "appears most obvious for younger women."

"The density," Perry noted, "doesn't have to do with size. It's about the amount of fibrous and glandular tissue" - which does make it hard to predict which women are more likely to have denser breasts.

According to Debra Copit, MD, from Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, who wasn't involved in the study, said breast density may have to do with hormonal effects.

"It's interesting assuming that breast density is a risk factor in and of itself, and that it is not just masking tumors," Copit said.

According to Perry, it is difficult to tell, but the researcher noted that it's "not the first time someone has shown that younger women are more vulnerable" to the risks of breast density.

Breast density is commonly accepted to be an independent predictor of breast cancer risk.

In the study, the scientists looked at digital mammograms from 317 women who had breast cancer and compared them with mammograms of 317 healthy controls.

Results showed that a total of 282 of these pairs also had fully automated breast density readings, which involved an algorithm that differentiated dense tissue from fat and calculated the percentage of dense breast tissue. 

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