Breast density as a risk factor
Over 700,000 women in the UK of breast screening age are estimated to be at higher than average risk of developing breast cancer due to having a high breast density, which can als mask the signs of a tumour on a mammogram. Other countries – the United States and Canada – have already taken significant steps to inform women about the implications of having high breast density.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Campaign, says:
“The best weapon in overcoming breast cancer is the ability to stop the disease occurring in the first place. To do this, we need better ways to identify who is most at risk. The emerging evidence on risk factors such as breast density, which we now know is putting hundreds of thousands of women at risk of developing breast cancer, must be taken into consideration and more must be done.”
Breast density refers to the amount of collagen and glandular tissue compared with fat in the breast. This can be estimated on mammograms – high density occurring when there is more collagen and glandular tissue than fat in the breast.
High breast density is a significant risk factor for breast cancer: women with the highest density are up to five times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with low density , and twice as likely to develop the disease compared to women with average breast density.