Mammograms Can Boost Breast Cancer Risk, So Why Are Women Encouraged to Get Them?
8 months ago
Experts discuss a popular, but imperfect method
The health of women worldwide stands in troubled territory as they continue to receive conflicting reports about what methods can detect, prevent and cure potentially fatal diseases.
Just as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force declared ovarian cancer screenings ineffective—for frequently resulting in false-positives and thus unnecessary operations with high complication rates—the Netherlands Cancer Institute has cited the radiation from mammograms as a potential cause of breast cancer. Ultimately, the method used to detect the disease could very well be increasing its chance of development.
The Netherlands Cancer Institute specified that the increase applies to young women with an existing "high familial risk," reporting that "any diagnostic use of radiation before age 30 [can increase the] breast cancer risk by 90 percent for carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations." These mutations impair the body's ability to fix double-strand breaks in DNA; the breaks are caused by ionizing radiation.
But Dr. Diana Buist, an epidemiologist whose work focuses primarily on early detection of breast cancer, assures that the two factors are not exclusive of one another.
"It's really important that women understand that family history of breast cancer is not the same thing as being a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 carrier," Buist said. "Most women with a family history do not carry either of these mutations."
In fact, only about 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it. Eighty-five percent of breast cancers, however, occur due to the genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process.
For carriers of BRCA, the American Cancer Society (and the Netherlands Cancer Institute) recommend an annual MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) screening, a less-risky, non-ionizing radiation technique. The same is encouraged for women who were treated for Hodgkin disease.