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Dense Tissue Linked To Greater Risk Of Breast Cancer

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 12:17 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Breast Cancer, Women's Health, Mammogram, Estrogen


IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto/ radiologist examines breast image/ author: Millanovic

Studies have linked dense breasts to a greater risk of breast cancer. One reason, theorize researchers, is because dense breast tissue makes detecting tumors harder on mammograms.

An estimated one-fourth of women over forty have dense breasts.

On a mammogram, dense breast tissue shows up white, as do tumors, which makes detection harder and in some cases delays diagnosis. But according to new research presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, dense breast tissue contains more cells known to produce breast cancer than that of non-dense tissue.

The National Cancer Institute estimates 184,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008, of them, 41,000 women will die of the disease.

A study by Mayo Clinic found that dense breast tissue has more aromatase enzyme than non-dense tissue. Aromatase converts androgen (hormone) into estrogen.

Higher levels of estrogen have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

This research is the first to compare dense and non-dense tissues taken from healthy participants, with no history of breast cancer. The 60 participants, ranging in age from 40 to 85, submitted eight-core needle biopsies.

The study found that dense tissue contains more epithelium tissue (duct cells and milk glands) and stroma tissue (connective tissue) and less fat compared to non-dense tissue.

“We don’t know why density increases the risk of breast cancer, but we are working to connect the dots,” said Celine Vachon, Ph.D., the lead author of both studies.

A recent study found a new experimental technique called molecular breast imaging (also referred to as MBI) three times more effective than traditional mammography at detecting breast cancer tumors in women who have dense breast tissue, researchers said.

New analysis of a large federal study suggests menopause hormones taken for five years increases the risk for breast cancer twofold, revealing compelling findings of the dangers associated with these still widely used pills. #

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