While women with a false-positive mammogram have a greater risk of developing breast cancer than those with normal screening, the odds depend on various factors, according to study findings published in JAMA Oncology.

“This study suggests that the risk of developing breast cancer after a false-positive mammography result differs by individual characteristics and follow-up,” wrote the study authors. “These findings can be used to develop individualized risk-based breast cancer screening after a false-positive result.”

Kamila Czene, PhD, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and colleagues examined long-term outcomes after false-positive mammography results.

The study included 45,213 women with an initial false-positive mammogram between 1991 and 2017. To create a matched cohort, the researchers also included 452,130 women with normal mammograms. In addition, the analysis compared 1,113 women with false-positive results and 11,130 matched control subjects with available breast density data from the Karolinska Mammography Project for Risk Prediction of Breast Cancer study. The average age of the study population was 52 years, and 92% had no family history of breast cancer.

The researchers found that the 20-year cumulative incidence of breast cancer was 11.3% among women with a false-positive mammography result compared to 7.3% among those with normal results, representing in 61% higher risk. The risk of breast cancer was highest within the first four years after a false-positive mammogram.

What’s more, women with a false-positive mammogram had a greater risk of both death from all causes and death from breast cancer compared to women without false-positive results.

For women who received a false-positive mammogram and later went on to develop breast cancer, the increased risk depended on several factors including age, breast density and whether a biopsy was performed during recall or not. For instance, women between ages 60 and 75 and those with lower breast density at the time of their false-positive mammogram were more likely to have a later accurate breast cancer diagnosis.

“This study suggests that breast cancer awareness should be emphasized long term for women with a false-positive mammography result; developing personalized surveillance programs can be beneficial for these women,” according to the researchers.

Click here to read the study in JAMA Oncology.

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