The latest study may have alarmed women who've been told they have "dense" breast tissue. But a local expert cautions that there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
In a recent Canadian study, it was found that women with the densest breasts had four to six times the risk of breast cancer compared with women with fatty and less dense breast tissue.
But Las Vegas radiologist William Boren is not convinced that density is itself a risk factor. And that there have been other studies to the contrary.
He said, "I think it's going to be controversial to say if you have dense breasts you're more likely to get cancer."
There is, however, a masking effect in mammograms of dense breasts. It can be difficult to differentiate tumors from surrounding tissue.
"Dense breasts tend to hide cancers. So this is this more likelihood that a dense breast is going to have a missed cancer on mammography. At the same time, it is questionable whether because you have dense breasts that you're going to have more likely a risk for cancer," Dr. Boren said.
If scientists do eventually prove a connection between density and a higher risk, Las Vegas oncologist Ann Wierman say it may have to do with estrogen.
Dr. Wierman said, "We've always thought that denser breasts were perhaps associated with higher individual estrogen levels. And because of those higher or longer estrogen exposures, you may individually be at a higher risk for cancer."
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