New Breast Imaging Methods May Sharply Raise Cancer Risk

Risk much higher with gamma imaging or positron emission mammography than standard screening

TUESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- One breast-specific gamma imaging (BSGI) or positron emission mammography (PEM) exam is associated with a lifetime attributable risk (LAR) of fatal cancer that is at least as high as that associated with a lifetime of annual screening mammography, according to a report published online Aug. 24 in Radiology.

R. Edward Hendrick, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado in Denver, reviewed studies on radiation doses from radiologic and nuclear medicine procedures, as well as Biologic Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII risk data, to estimate the risk of radiation-induced cancer and death from breast imaging exams using screen-film mammography, digital mammography, digital breast tomosynthesis, dedicated breast computed tomography, BSGI, and PEM.

The author found that women who were age 40 at exposure to digital mammography and screen-film mammography had an LAR of fatal breast cancer of 1.3 and 1.7 cases per 100,000, respectively, while both dedicated breast CT and digital tomosynthesis conferred an LAR of fatal breast cancer of 1.3 to 2.6 cases per 100,000. However, a single BSGI exam had an LAR of fatal cancer 20 to 30 times that of digital mammography, while the LAR of a single PEM was 23 times greater than that of digital mammography. BSGI and PEM also may increase the risk of cancers in other organs.

"When referring patients for recently introduced breast imaging studies such as BSGI and PEM, one should consider the radiation risks as well as the potential benefits of these modalities," the author writes.

The author disclosed financial ties to GE Healthcare, Koning, and Bracco.

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