Mammograms may boost breast cancer risk in some women: Study
London: Mammograms aimed at detecting breast cancer can raise the chances of developing it in some young women, a new study has claimed.
European researchers have found that the added radiation from the tests may be especially harmful to women who carry mutated genes that put them at higher risk for the disease.
The study suggested that women with the mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes should be screened with an Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instead as this does not involve radiation, the Daily Mail reported.
Around one in 400 women have the BRCA1 and BRCA1 gene abnormalities which gives them a five-fold risk of developing breast cancer.
Mammograms have been proven to save lives and are clearly beneficial for women aged 50 and over who have an average risk of breast cancer. However, they are not advised for women at high risk of the disease.
Some studies have suggested women with the genetic mutations could be more sensitive to radiation because the genes are involved in fixing DNA problems. If those genes are damaged by radiation, they may not be able to repair DNA properly, raising the cancer risk.
In the new study, researchers followed nearly 2,000 women over 18 with one of the gene mutations in Britain, France and the Netherlands.
Participants reported their previous chest X-rays and mammograms, including the age of their first screening and the number of procedures.
About 850 women were later diagnosed with breast cancer. Roughly half of them had X-rays while one third had at least one mammogram, at an average age of 29.
The researchers estimated that for every 100 women aged 30 with a gene mutation, nine will develop breast cancer by age 40.
Researchers found women with a history of chest radiation in their 20s had a 43 per cent increased relative risk of breast cancer compared to women who had no chest radiation at that age.
Any exposure before age 20 seemed to raise the risk by 62 per cent. Radiation after age 30 did not seem to affect breast cancer risk.
"We believe countries who use mammograms in women under 30 should reconsider their guidelines," Anouk Pijpe, one of the study authors from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, said.
"It may be possible to reduce the risk of breast cancer in (high-risk) women by using MRIs, so we believe physicians and patients should consider that," Pijpe added.