According to a new study, women who have had false-positive results on mammogram may face a greater risk of future breast cancer.
The study analyzed 2.2 million mammograms from 1.3 million U.S. women who ranged in age from 40 to 74.
The study found that women with a false-positive result who were referred for further imaging had a 39% greater chance of developing breast cancer within 10 years. Women who were told to get biopsies after false-positive readings had a 76% increased risk during the subsequent 10-year period.
67% if women over 40 years old undergo screening mammography every year or two. If a radiologist spots suspicious tissue, a patient will be referred for further imaging or a biopsy.
Unfortunately, false-positive readings on mammograms are pretty common.
Between 10 and 16% of mammograms generate a false-positive result. According to researchers, if women are screened every year or two, about half of women can expect a false-positive result across 10 mammograms.
Although an increase in risk is worrisome, researchers assert that women should not be overly concerned. The absolute risk is actually fairly small.
Women should talk to their physicians if they do have a false-positive result and consider other risk factors they may have.
There are a variety of risk factors for breast cancer, such as genetic mutations, age, and the density of a woman’s breasts.
Although women with denser breasts face a higher risk of breast cancer in general, density does not affect the relationship between false-positive mammograms and subsequent cancer diagnoses for most women. However, breast density can affect the readability of mammograms.
These findings suggest that radiologists who read mammograms may notice abnormalities that although not cancerous may be markers for future cancer.
The study did not include an analysis of the locations of tumors compared to initial problems spotted on mammograms.
The ultimate goal is to use this information for risk-prediction models to help women get a better sense of what a certain result may really mean for her particularly.