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Minn. and Rhode Island enact breast density laws

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | May 27, 2014
Gov. Mark Dayton
of Minnesota
This week, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed Rhode Island's breast density inform bill into law, and late last week, Gov. Mark Dayton did the same for Minnesota women.

Breast density laws require physicians to inform women if they have dense breasts along with the possible risks that can be present.

Minnesota becomes the sixteenth state with mandatory breast density notification for women, and Rhode Island became the seventeenth.

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Connecticut was the first state to pass breast density inform legislation in 2009, followed by Texas, Virginia, California, New York, Hawaii, Maryland, Alabama, Tennessee, Nevada, Oregon, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arizona and now Minnesota and Rhode Island.

Nancy Cappello, a patient advocate and the impetus behind the first density reporting law in Connecticut, said in reaction to the Minnesota law: "I am elated that the Minnesota legislature and governor, with the support of the medical community, have joined fifteen other states to disclose dense breast tissue to the patient. This legislation will give a patient information about her breast tissue composition to aide in discussions with health providers about her personal screening surveillance."

Studies have shown that women with dense breast tissue — which often makes it hard for radiologists to see abnormalities on a mammogram — have a higher rate of breast cancer. However, a recent study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found breast density was not linked to increased cancer deaths. There is also debate in the medical community about what constitutes breast density in a woman, even though imaging equipment vendors have developed special qualitative software aimed at measuring breast density.

Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio and South Carolina all have legislation that is still active this session.

A federal breast density law, introduced by Reps. DeLauro (CT) and Israel (NY), is also making its way through Congress and on the federal regulatory level, a Breast Density Reporting amendment to the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) is scheduled to be issued as a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" this year.

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