Women receive about 30 percent less radiation from mammo than previously believed

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | July 17, 2015
CT Risk Management Women's Health X-Ray
Much of what was once believed about mammography is now proving to be untrue. Earlier this month, an in-depth review stated that the benefits of mammography are most likely overestimated and a University of California, Davis study published on Wednesday found that the risks of mammography are also overestimated.

The researched was presented at the 57th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine and found that women receive about 30 percent less radiation during a mammography screening exam than previously thought.

Since the glandular tissue within the breast is at the greatest risk of being damaged by radiation, current mammography approaches focus only on the radiation dose deposited to that tissue. But those approaches don’t take into account that glandular tissue is not distributed uniformly throughout the breast and as a result, radiation dose is overestimated.

The study used a comprehensive model of breast anatomy based on CT exams of 219 women with a range of different breast densities, ages, ethnicities and sizes to investigate how glandular tissue is distributed throughout the breast. They found that radiation dose is estimated by 25 to 35 percent.

There is currently a lot of controversy surrounding mammography screening for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening starting at age 40 but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends biennial screening beginning at age 50.

"It is unlikely that the USPSTF's recommendations will change in the near future due to this study," Andrew Hernandez, lead researcher, told HCB News. "However, perhaps they should reevaluate the risk/benefit analysis that they used to provide these recommendations since we have now shown that the risk of developing breast cancer from mammogram screening is on average 30 percent less."

Dr. Daniel Kopans, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and well known as the “father of breast tomosynthesis,” told HCB News that the guidelines put 100,000 women at risk. In addition, the American College of Radiology stated that the recommendations would result in thousands of breast cancer deaths.

The next step for the industry is to update the radiation dose approaches used for mammography to reflect the real distribution of glandular tissue.

Back to HCB News

You Must Be Logged In To Post A Comment