The density of breast tissue can be a risk factor in the development of breast cancer and can also make early detection difficult. A study published in the medical journal JAMA Oncology has found that the density of breast tissue can influence the risk of developing breast cancer, in addition to making early detection difficult.
The research examined the records of more than 600,000 women who had mammograms between 2010 and 2022, and found that those with higher breast density had a higher risk of breast cancer. In addition, women with higher breast density were also more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage breast cancer, which can make it more difficult to treat.
Javier de Santiago, president of the Oncological Gynecology Section of the Spanish Society of Gynecology, explains that the size of the breasts does not influence their density: “The breast is made up of fibroglandular tissue and fat. When the former predominates, one speaks of a dense breast. But this has nothing to do with size. In fact, generally, small breasts are denser”, he admits.
Measures to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer
It is important for women to know their breast density and talk to their doctors about any concerns they have. In some cases, additional tests, such as an MRI, may be needed to detect breast cancer in women with high breast density.
“In very dense breasts, screening should be done with resonance, not with mammography. This would help to detect more tumors and there would be fewer interval carcinomas”, says Laura Álvarez, spokesperson for the Spanish Society of Medical Radiology. In addition, it is essential that all women follow their doctor’s recommendations for regular mammograms and breast self-exams.
Importantly, early detection remains the best defense against breast cancer. Understanding how breast density can affect diagnosis and treatment can help women make informed decisions about their breast health.
For this reason, doctors should consider a woman’s breast density when interpreting the results of a mammogram and advising on the frequency of screening. Women can also take steps to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer, such as leading a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking.