Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

False-Positive Mammograms Linked to Breast Cancer

Women With False-Positive Results More Likely to Develop Breast Cancer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 10, 2010 (San Antonio) -- Women who have false-positive results on a mammogram are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to findings of a large Danish study.

Researchers caution that women should not be afraid and skip mammograms, as the actual risk to any given woman is still low.

The study involved nearly 60,000 women participating in the Copenhagen mammography program. As part of the program, all women aged 50 to 69 in the city get an invitation to come in for a mammogram every two years.

Results showed that women who had false positives were 73% more likely to develop breast cancer in the two years before their next mammogram and 33% more likely to develop breast cancer over the next 17 years, compared with women who didn't have false positives.

Still, only 22 of the 5,080 women who had false-positive results developed breast cancer in the next two years, says researcher My von Eular-Helpin, PhD, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Copenhagen.

Women who have false positives may want to make sure they are monitored more closely, perhaps with more frequent mammograms, she says.

Some Breast Lesions May Be Missed

Although the study didn't look at why these women were at increased risk of breast tumors, Eular-Helpin tells WebMD she suspect that some benign lesions turned malignant. Also, some lesions are so small they may be missed, especially by a less experienced radiologist, she theorizes.

Claudia Isaacs, MD, director of the clinical breast cancer program at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, says the findings offer one more reason to for women 50 and older to have annual breast X-rays.

There's been a debate in the U.S. ever since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts, said women 50 and older need mammograms only every two years. The American Cancer Society and some other cancer groups have long recommended that women get annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Just yesterday, researchers reported that half of insured women in the U.S. don't get regular mammograms.

"If you have a false-positive result, don't get scared. Just follow up with yearly mammograms," Isaacs tells WebMD.

The findings were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow