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Mammograms May Help Screen for Heart Disease

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Apr 2016
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Routine mammography screening for breast cancer may be a useful tool to identify coronary arterial calcification (CAC), according to a new study.

Researchers at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital (New York, NY, USA) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, NY, USA) conducted a study involving 292 women who had both digital mammography and non-contrast computerized tomography (CT) scans within one year of each other. Examination of the data showed that 42.5% of the women had evidence of breast arterial calcification. The mammograms were reviewed by a second radiologist, who was blinded to the CAC results found on the CT scans. Women with established cardiovascular disease (CVD) were excluded.

The results showed that the overall accuracy of breast arterial calcification for the presence of CAC was 70%, while 63% of the women with CAC also had breast arterial calcification. Among women younger than 60 years of age, breast arterial calcification showed a higher, 83% risk for CAC. Additional findings were that women with breast arterial calcification were older, had high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD), and were less likely to be smokers. The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 65th annual scientific session, held during April 2016 in Chicago (IL, USA).

“This information is available on every mammogram, with no additional cost or radiation exposure, and our research suggests breast arterial calcification is as good as the standard risk factor-based estimate for predicting risk,” said lead author Prof. Harvey Hecht, MD, director of cardiovascular imaging at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital. “Using this information would allow at-risk women to be referred for standard CAC scoring and to be able to start focusing on prevention—perhaps even taking a statin when it can make the most difference.”

CAC is considered a very early sign of CVD, and the presence of breast arterial calcification appears to be an equivalent or stronger risk factor for CAC than other well-established CVD risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Research has also shown a link between breast arterial calcification and atherosclerotic disease, as well as a relationship between the extent of calcified plaque in the mammary and coronary arteries.

Related Links:

Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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