Mammogram Density And What You Ate For Lunch

Breast cancer is detected by mammograms and mammograms that are read out as very dense, are problematic for two reasons: one is that an early cancer can be obscured, the other is that the density itself may be a sign of breast tissue characteristics that are more at risk for developing cancer. In a study in Spain looking at Western Diets verses Mediterranean diet it was found that Western diet patterns with high fat dairy, processed meat, refined grains, and caloric drinks were found to have more density on their mammograms. Not only that, but the diet effects were really only found in women who were overweight and obese. Since fat cells produce hormones and growth factors it makes sense that being overweight, or having a high fat to muscle ratio would increase the density of breast tissue. At Women's Health Practice we do not feel that one meal will affect your density, and it is possible to reverse the effects of the Western Diet on your mammogram with modifications both to the way you are eating and to your body composition. The study also talked about how diet affects individuals with other risk factors, for instance it is even more important to eat well as you age. So next time you think about how you are going to fare on your mammogram, come in and discuss your overall nutrition with your gyno.

More information about density reported on your mammogram can be found below:

Mammographic breast density because of these risk factors is also now graded along with the other characteristics of your breast reported on a mammogram.Women with dense breast tissue have 3-5 times greater risk of breast cancer than women with normal breasts, and hormone therapy can increase breast density in 30-50% of women who take it.  The National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Surveillance site also has a lot of data on breast density at their site. They have developed a tool for health care providers to help them understand what patients are at most risk from dense breasts. Generally a physician can look at the mammogram and the amount of ‘black’ verses ‘white’ components of the x-ray. Very white means very dense. Since breast tissue is actually 3 dimensional the denseness of the breast also is based on the internal structures that the radiologist is seeing. The thought has been that too dense of a breast would then obscure the view of a cancer. In general the pictures are graded by the ‘percentage’ of density, and greater than or equal to 75% dense correlates with dense breasts and less ability to predict the presence of a very small cancer. For decades the individual reading a mammogram reported their interpretation of density, but now the CAD or Computer Aided Detection programs can very accurately report the percent of density. Women who are heavier tend to have more dense breasts, like other features of our breast the density is somewhat genetic. Density is also related to hormone use and thus it is the position of the North American Menopause Society that taking estrogen and progesterone hormone therapy will hare the diagnostic interpretation of mammograms. Your density on your mammograms will change with many factors besides whether you have a Western or a Mediterranean diet and hormone use. Having a baby decreases density, and having too much alcohol increases density. Aging and decreasing hormones will change your density the most dramatically and decrease its density. And the more your density decreases the less your risk for breast cancer over time. USPSTF considered whether women with dense breasts need extra mammograms and generally found that wouldn't be so helpful. Other women's advocacy groups may not agree. There may be ways your physician can advise you as to how to reduce your breast density. So next time you are discussing your mammogram report with your gyno, ask if your breasts are less or more dense than the last picture you had taken!


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