Mammographic density and breast cancer screening

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Mammographic density, which is determined by the relative amounts of fibroglandular tissue and fat in the breast, varies between women. Mammographic density is associated with a range of factors, including age and body mass index. The description of mammographic density has been transformed by the digitalization of mammography, which has allowed automation of the assessment of mammographic density, rather than using visual inspection by a radiologist. High mammographic density is important because it is associated with reduced sensitivity for the detection of breast cancer at the time of mammographic screening. High mammographic density is also associated with an elevated risk of developing breast cancer. Mammographic density appears to be on the causal pathway for some breast cancer risk factors, but not others. Mammographic density needs to be considered in the context of a woman’s background risk of breast cancer. There is intense debate about the use of supplementary imaging for women with high mammographic density. Should supplementary imaging be used in women with high mammographic density and a clear mammogram? If so, what modalities of imaging should be used and in which women? Trials are underway to address the risks and benefits of supplementary imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-465
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • mammographic density
  • Mammographic screening
  • supplementary screening

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