by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | February 27, 2012
Virginia is likely to stand beside Connecticut and Texas as the third U.S. state to have passed a breast density law, according to reports.
Both houses of Virginia's congress unanimously approved a law that would require radiologists to inform patients in mammography reports if they have dense breasts. The House voted on it in January, and the Senate earlier this month. Gov. Bob McDonnell indicated he will sign the law, Roanoke Times reports, quoting a spokeswoman.
Dense breasts are less fatty and have more connective tissue, which looks similar to cancer on a mammogram. Dense breasts are linked to an increased risk for breast cancer, possibly due to this so-called "masking effect," but also possibly because of something different about the breasts themselves, according to National Cancer Institute researchers. About 40 percent of women have dense breasts, according to Are You Dense, an advocacy group.
Still, laws requiring doctors to warn women they have dense breasts have been controversial. A similar California bill, vetoed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown
, was opposed by many of the state's medical societies. In his letter to the legislature, Brown said he worried the bill would lead to "unnecessary anxiety" in patients. Critics of breast density legislation also worry that it could lead to women getting expensive follow-up tests that might not be scientifically warranted.