Advertisement

Why do women with dense breasts have a higher risk for breast cancer?

Women with dense breasts don't necessarily have a higher risk for cancer, but cancer is more likely to be missed in women with dense breasts. Dense breast tissue makes the imaging studies that healthcare professionals use to detect breast cancer less effective, so cancer is more likely to be missed and found at a later stage. 
Deanna J. Attai, MD
Surgery
Most experts believe that there is a risk factor for cancer involved in breast density. Breasts are made of fat and glandular tissue. The more glandular tissue you have, the denser your breasts. Studies show that women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. It makes some sense because breast tumors don’t come from fat; they come from fibroglandular tissue.

However, there are no medical organization guidelines on whether or not women with dense breasts who are at average risk for breast cancer should have additional or different screenings. Other types of breast cancer screenings include digital breast tomosynthesis (also called 3D mammography), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound.

We do know that additional imaging will pick up more breast cancer, but we don’t have long-term data to suggest that it will actually help improve survival rates.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.

Continue Learning about Breast Cancer

Coping With the Emotional Stress of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Coping With the Emotional Stress of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer, or MBC, is a difficult diagnosis to receive and a hard condition to manage day to day. It can cause a wide variety of sympto...
Read More
What is accelerated partial breast irradiation?
Preya Ananthakrishnan, MDPreya Ananthakrishnan, MD
Accelerated partial breast irradiation, or APBI, is a new form of radiation therapy that is under in...
More Answers
5 Workouts for Breast Cancer Survivors
5 Workouts for Breast Cancer Survivors5 Workouts for Breast Cancer Survivors5 Workouts for Breast Cancer Survivors5 Workouts for Breast Cancer Survivors
These gentle workouts can help breast cancer survivors combat some of the effects of treatment, including pain, fatigue, stress and weight gain.
Start Slideshow
How to Protect Your Daughter from Breast Cancer
How to Protect Your Daughter from Breast Cancer

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.