Among women over the age of 50 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, those with high breast density may be more likely to have a recurrence of their breast cancer. These results were presented at the eighth European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-8).

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer (other than skin cancer) in US women. Each year, roughly 227,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and close to 40,000 die of the disease.

Breast density refers to the extent of glandular and connective tissue in the breast. Breasts with more glandular and connective tissue—and less fat—are denser. Breast density can be assessed by mammography.

Women with higher breast density are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, but less information has been available about the relationship between breast density and breast cancer prognosis. To explore this issue, researchers inSwedencollected information about 1,774 women. The women were postmenopausal and had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1993 and 1995.

Breast density was defined for all women based on computer-assisted analysis of a mammogram. Women with high breast density (defined in this study as at least 25 percent mammographic density at the time of diagnosis) were compared with women with lower breast density.

  • Women with high breast density where almost twice as likely as women with lower breast density to have a cancer recurrence within or near the breast.
  • Breast density was not related to the risk of distant cancer recurrence or survival.

These results suggest that in addition to increasing the likelihood of breast cancer, high breast density may also increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The reasons for this are uncertain, and it’s still not clear whether information about breast density should affect breast cancer management.

Reference: Erikkson L, Czene K, Rosenberg L, Humphreys K, Hall P. Mammographic density, tumor characteristics, and prognosis. Paper presented at: eighth European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC8); March 21-24, 2012; Vienna,Austria. Abstract 131.

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