Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam

Two more states pass breast density laws

May 31, 2013
by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor
Laws in both Tennessee and Alabama will now require doctors to inform women of their breast density and the possible risks following a mammogram. Alabama becomes the ninth state and Tennessee the eighth state with the legislation.

Thirty-six percent of U.S. women now live in states where density notification is required, according to JoAnn Pushkin, co-founder of D.E.N.S.E. (Density Education National Survivors' Effort) and founder of D.E.N.S.E. NY.

Connecticut was the first state to pass legislation in 2009, followed by Texas, Virginia, California, New York, and most recently Hawaii and Maryland.

According to patient advocates, effective density notification should clearly tell a woman that she has dense breast tissue, which can interfere with the effectiveness of a mammogram. Besides discussing risk factors, doctors should also inform patients of the benefits of further screening, like ultrasound.

On a mammogram, dense breasts have less fat and more connective tissue, which appears white on the mammogram, just like cancer, possibly making it easy for radiologists to miss. Studies have also shown that women with dense breast tissue have a higher rate of breast cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even includes it on its list of "Risk Factors" for the development of breast cancer. However, to date, no evidence points to breast density being linked to increased cancer deaths.

Density inform laws are pending in over a dozen other states.