Breast cancer risks

Women are becoming more aware of the term “breast density,” but they aren’t as familiar with its relation to breast cancer risk or mammograms, according to a small U.S. study.

In particular, African American and Ashkenazi Jewish women, who may be at a higher risk for breast cancer, seemed to be less knowledgeable about breast density, researchers found.

“There’s a national movement to increase women’s awareness of breast density and help them make better healthcare decisions,” said Jennifer Harvey, study author and co-director of the University of Virginia Breast Care Program in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Although women are more aware of this topic, they don’t understand the implications of what having dense breasts means,” she told Reuters Health. “It can be really common.”

Breast density compares the amount of fat to the amount of other types of tissue in a mammogram image. Dense breasts contain more glandular and fibrous tissue than fatty tissue. Typically, breast density decreases as women age.

Previous studies have found that breast density reduces the sensitivity of mammography because there is more tissue to scan and study. In addition, density is considered an independent risk factor for breast cancer due to increased estrogen production, genetic heredity and elevated growth factors in the breast tissue of women with dense breasts, according to Harvey.