• By Joe Dangor

U.S. Women’s Awareness of Breast Density Varies by Race and Ethnicity, Education and Income, Mayo Clinic Study Finds

March 2, 2015

Disparities in the level of awareness and knowledge of breast density exist among U.S. women, according to the results of a Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Xray of non dense breast with cancer

Image A: Non-dense breast tissue showin.g a small cancer (upper left)

Breast density is the term used to describe the variation in dense tissue on a mammogram image. Fatty breast tissue appears more radiologically translucent than dense (fibroglandular) breast tissue. Regions of a breast that comprise fatty tissue will appear darker on a mammogram, while regions that comprise dense tissue appear whiter.

Dense breast w cancer

Image B: Dense breast tissue with palpable lump, cancer diagnosed (far right center)

Increased breast density has been shown to mask cancers on the mammogram as well as to be associated with future risk of breast cancer. Recent legislation in several states mandates that women be given information about breast density in order to guide decisions about breast cancer screening.

Researchers conducted a national cross-sectional survey of 2,311 women ages 40 to 74 in English and Spanish. The survey response rate was 65 percent. Overall, more than half of women who responded (58 percent) had heard of breast density, 49 percent were aware that breast density affects breast cancer detection and 53 percent knew that breast density is associated with cancer risk.

Joe Dangor, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, [email protected].

When researchers examined the survey results for race and ethnicity, they found increased breast density awareness among white, non-Hispanic women relative to minority women. Increased awareness was also associated with women with higher household incomes, women with higher education, women who had received a diagnostic evaluation after a mammogram and women who received postmenopausal hormone therapy.

“The results of our study support the need for continued efforts to improve awareness of breast density and its implications on screening among women who are eligible for screening mammograms,” says the study’s lead author, Deborah Rhodes, M.D., a consultant in preventive medicine at Mayo Clinic.”

Dr. Rhodes and colleagues also found that respondents from Connecticut were more likely than residents of other states to be aware of the potential masking effect of breast density on mammographic detection of cancer and were more likely to have discussed breast density with a health care provider. Connecticut was the first state to pass breast density legislation in 2009. To date, legislation mandating disclosure of breast density information has been passed in 21 states.

Co-authors include Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, Ph.D., Sarah M. Jenkins and Celine M. Vachon, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic, and Jeanette Y. Ziegenfuss, Ph.D., of HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research.

The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research funded the study.

About the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine
The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine is home to the Individualized Medicine Clinic, the world’s first integrated, multidisciplinary genomics clinic, serving patients with advanced cancer and diagnostic dilemmas. The center discovers and integrates the latest in genomic, molecular and clinical sciences into personalized care for each Mayo Clinic patient.

About Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
As a leading institution funded by the National Cancer Institute, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center conducts basic, clinical and population science research, translating discoveries into improved methods for prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. For information on cancer clinical trials, call 1-855-776-0015 (toll-free).


About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to medical research and education, and providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.

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