False positive mammogram linked to increased future risk

Women who receive a false positive mammography result face an increased risk of a future breast cancer diagnosis, according to a new study.

Researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, say the risk is highest for women aged between 60 and 75 and who have low breast density.

Previous studies have indicated that false positive mammography results were associated with a short-term increased risk of breast cancer, but this new study shows women with false-positive results have a 60% increased risk of developing breast cancer than other women over the subsequent 20 years, the researchers say.

They identified 45,213 women with an initial false positive result and another 452,130 women of the same age who were not recalled, all of whom attended the mammography screening program in Stockholm.

They also included 12,243 women with information on mammographic density from the Karolinska Mammography Project for Risk Prediction of Breast Cancer (KARMA) study.

Dr Xinhe Mao, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said the elevated risk was higher in women aged 60-75 than those aged 40 to 45. This was particularly true for women with low mammographic density and the risk was also highest in the four to six years following a false positive result.

Dr Mao said: “It’s important to accentuate a long-term awareness of breast cancer in women who get false positive mammography results. It might be beneficial to draw up personal monitoring programmes for these women with careful follow-ups over the years immediately following.”

Mao X, He W, Humphreys K et al. Breast cancer incidence after a false-positive mammography result. JAMA Oncology 1 November 2023; doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2023.4519


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