RESPONSE to ACR/SBI Jubilation over Study citing Mammography Detection Rate of 26.8% in the Densest Breasts
PRESS RELEASE (August 31, 2012 - Woodbury, CT) For PDF of the release click HERE
Research: Mammograms find only 26.8% of cancers in densest breasts; ACR/SBI spin the finding as “Good News for Women with Dense Breasts”
WOODBURY, Conn. - -The ACR and SBI have released their organizational position on the research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute evaluating the relationship between mammographic density and breast cancer death. The ACR/SBI release titled, “Gierach et al Study in JNCI Good News for Women with Dense Breasts, Reinforces Need for Regular Mammograms ,” is sufficiently misleading in its presentation of data that, in the interest of public safety, it requires comment.
ACR/SBI spin the recent research finding that dense-breasted women have the same risk of dying as women with fatty breast as “Good News for Women with Dense Breasts.” Unfortunately, data from this study demonstrate that while 74.3% of study participants with the densest breasts had a mammogram within the previous two years, mammograms only detected 26.8% of cancers. Despite the extremely low detection rate in the densest breasts (corroborated in previous studies over the past decade), the ACR/SBI continues to describe the ability of mammography to detect cancer in dense tissue as “somewhat reduced.”
The study’s cancer “find” rate by mammography among all breast types ranged from a low of 26.8% to a high of 45.2%. For any breast tissue type in this study, the odds of a coin toss exceeded the odds that breast cancer would be found by mammography. Astoundingly, the ACR/SBI concluded the research is “reassuring” and “reinforces need for mammograms.” It is little wonder that there is ongoing debate about the effectiveness of routine mammographic screening.
Continuing with the “Not-So-Good” news are the study’s findings that women with the densest breasts were diagnosed at a median age 16 years younger than those with fatty breasts, were more likely to have interval cancers, positive lymph nodes and treatment with chemotherapy.
Additionally, as women with dense breasts are at greater risk of developing breast cancer, their risk of dying from breast cancer is elevated compared to the general population. While a dense-breasted woman diagnosed at Stage IV may have the same risk of dying as a woman with fatty breasts diagnosed at Stage IV, research indicates that women with extremely dense breasts are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop breast cancer and could therefore be 4 to 6 times more likely to be Stage IV than women with fatty breasts.
Are You Dense, Inc. and Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc. recognize how disquieting this research must be to those in the mammography business. While mammography is the most widely available screening test for breast cancer today, and while it does save lives, we appeal to the ACR/SBI and other national organizations to recognize that mammography has major limitations especially in dense breasts. The lives and health of women must not be sacrificed in the process of defending the status quo. Enough.
About Are You Dense, Inc. and Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc.
Are You Dense, Inc. and Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc. are nonprofit organizations that raise awareness about Breast Density, its inherent cancer risk and screening challenges, through education, advocacy and legislation.
JoAnn Pushkin, Executive Director