Older breast cancer survivors with dense breast tissue are far more likely to experience a recurrence, according to a new Swedish study.
In a presentation at the annual European Breast Cancer Conference in Vienna this week, researchers from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet reported an analysis of 1,774 cases found women 50 years and older with denser breasts had nearly double the risk of their cancer recurring than women with less dense breasts.
Lead researcher Dr. Louise Eriksson and her colleagues said they don’t know why breast density is a risk factor for cancer, but said doctors should factor it into decisions about a woman’s treatment and follow-up.
"It could simply be due to higher density being associated with more cells, which means that more cells are at risk of developing cancer," Eriksso said, but added: "Our study shows that breast density before or at diagnosis should be taken into account even after diagnosis, for instance, when deciding on adjuvant treatment and follow-up routines; perhaps women with dense breasts should be followed more frequently or for a longer period of time in order to quickly spot any local recurrence.”
For the study, researchers examined mammograms and tracked the cases of post-menopausal women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1993-1995.
Although they found women with higher percentages of breast density were twice as likely to experience a recurrence, it did not increase their risk of death or of tumors spreading to other parts of the body