(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Breast density may help doctors better identify women at high risk for breast cancer. Two new studies show how important breast density is as an additional predictor for the disease.
In the first study, researchers looked at a new model that adds breast density to the factors that predict the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers from Cancer Research and Biostatics in Seattle analyzed data from 11,638 women diagnosed with the disease.
In pre-menopausal women, researchers report several risk factors for breast cancer including age, breast density, family history, and prior breast procedures. Risk factors for post-menopausal women included the same ones as those for pre-menopausal women but added ethnicity, body mass index, natural menopause, hormone therapy, and a prior false-positive mammogram. Researchers report breast density is almost as significant a predictor of breast cancer as age.
In the second study, researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, updated the Gail model -- a model developed in the 1980s to evaluate breast cancer risk in women who have an annual mammogram. The model includes breast density, weight, age at first live birth, the number of previous benign breast biopsy examinations, and the number of first-degree relatives with breast cancer. The earlier version of the Gail model did not include breast density.
Results show the new model predicted women with a high breast density had a higher risk of the disease. The authors say the updated model predicts the risk more accurately and applies to both pre- and post-menopausal women.
Researchers conclude it is unknown whether reducing breast density would reduce breast cancer risk. But the two new models may help doctors identify women more likely to develop the disease and monitor them closely.
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SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2006;98:1204-1214:1215-1226