Dec. 2, 2009 (Chicago) -- Low-dose radiation from mammograms or chest X-rays
may place some young high-risk women at increased risk of developing breast
cancer, a new study suggests.
Women, especially those under 30, who are already at high risk of breast
cancer because they carry a breast cancer gene or have a family history of
breast cancer may want to consider other screening methods, such as magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), that do not involve exposure to radiation, the
The researchers pooled results from six studies that looked at the effect of
exposure to low-dose radiation on women at high risk of breast cancer.
A total of 9,420 women at high risk of breast cancer were included in the
Among the findings:
High-risk women were two-and-one-half times more likely to develop breast
cancer than women in the general population.
High-risk women who had mammograms or chest X-rays before age 20 were
two-and-one-half times more likely to develop breast cancer than high-risk
women who were not exposed to low-dose radiation.
High-risk women who had mammograms or X-rays after age 20 were
one-and-one-half times more likely to develop breast cancer than high-risk
women who were not exposed to low-dose radiation, but that finding could have
been due to chance.
"For young, high-risk women, it is important to screen for breast cancer,"
says Marijke C. Jansen-van der Weide, PhD, of the University Medical Center
Groningen in the Netherlands.
"But they should weigh the risks and benefits with their doctors to come up
with a screening strategy," she tells WebMD.
If alternative screening methods are not available, Jansen-van der Weide
recommends having mammograms every other year, starting at age 30.
The results were reported at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society
of North America.