Mammograms Becoming a Tricky Read

More older women have breast tissue as dense as young women

TUESDAY, March 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- An increasing number of postmenopausal women have breast tissue as dense as that of younger women, making it more difficult for mammograms to detect tumors or early signs of breast cancer, a Dutch study claims.

This uncertainty may result in unnecessary biopsies for some women, the study authors add.

Researchers studied mammogram samples from 2,000 women in a screening program in the Netherlands and found a quarter of women aged 50 to 69 had dense mammographic breast patterns normally associated with younger women.

Among women aged 50 to 54, the proportion of women with dense breast tissue was 44 percent. That percentage was 17 percent in women aged 65 to 69.

The findings were presented March 16 at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

The researchers also concluded that that ability of mammograms to accurately detect cancer was 59 percent in the women with dense breast tissue and 67 percent in women with less dense breast tissue.

The researchers say it's unlikely that hormone replacement therapy is entirely responsible for the increased rates of dense breast tissue in menopausal women. It could also partly be due to changes in childbearing patterns, they suggest.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast cancer.

SOURCE: MW Communications, news release, March 16, 2004
Consumer News