Urban women more prone to breast cancer

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CHICAGO, Nov. 26—Women who live in urban areas have denser breasts, which make them more likely to develop breast cancer, according to a study presented today at the 93rd annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

“Women living in cities need to pay more attention to having regular breast screening,” said Nicholas M. Perry, MBBS, FRCS, FRCR, director of The London Breast Institute at The Princess Grace Hospital in London. “Currently, women who live in urban areas are known to have lower attendance for breast screening programs than women in outlying areas.”

Women with more glandular breasts show denser tissue on a mammogram and have nearly four times the risk of developing breast cancer than women with fatty breasts. Perry and colleagues sought to determine if there was a relationship between breast density and area of residence.

The researchers examined digital mammograms of 972 women from urban, suburban and rural areas. They discovered that women who lived in London had significantly denser breasts than those living outside the city. The risk of increased density was twice as great in the 45- to 54-year-old group. Age-specific analyses suggested that overall differences by area were more pronounced in women under age 50.

The researchers concluded that there is evidence of higher breast density in women residing in urban and suburban areas in the United Kingdom compared to rural areas.

Perry cautioned that more research is needed to understand the phenomenon, taking into account lifestyle factors, stress, workplace and other possible contributors, but he advised that all women maintain a recommended breast screening regimen. He also said that women with dense breasts should be screened with digital mammography.

“Access to breast screening for women living in cities must be prioritized,” Perry noted.

P.C. Allgood, PhD, S.W. Duffy, MD, S.E. Milner, BSc, and K. Mokbel, MD, co-authored the study.