Radiology: Breast arterial calcifications do not predict heart disease in women

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Breast arterial calcifications (BAC) seen during screening mammography were not found to have a correlation to coronary heart disease (CHD) seen during coronary angiography, even when researchers from the departments of medicine and radiology and the division of cardiology at the Staten Island University Hospital factored in CHD severity.

Based on the results of this study, which was published in the February issue of Radiology, caution should be exercised when using screening mammography–detected BAC to identify patients with CHD, according to lead author Mohammad Zgheib, MD, and colleagues.

The researchers recruited 172 women, ranging in age from 53 to 75 years for their HIPAA-compliant study. Each participant underwent coronary angiography and mammography screening and was interviewed for placement into two groups by the researchers, those with CHD and those without CHD.  Moreover, severity and location of the CHD was considered and breast imaging specialists who were blinded to the patient’s CHD status reviewed the mammograms.

Zgheib and colleagues investigated the presence of CHD and presence of cardiac risk and correlated these factors with any noted presence of BAC.

Of the 172 study participants, 104 were noted as having CHD. Within this subgroup of women, 36 percent were found to have BAC, compared to 20 of the 68 women (29 percent) without CHD. The average age of the women that had BAC was found to be 72 years, significantly older than the average age of patients without BAC (60 years), wrote the authors.

The researchers further divided the cohort into patients younger than 65 and those 65 and older, and determined that no correlation existed between CHD and BAC, they wrote, while noting that BAC can be associated with some cardiac risk factors.

While the study notes that clinicians remain uncertain if the presence of BAC should prompt a cardiac evaluation, continued investigation of sex-specific CHD markers is needed as the research did not quantify BACs as a potential marker for this disease.

“It seems more prudent to screen for the classic modifiable cardiac risk factors, such as smoking, dyslipidemia, diabetes, family history of CHD, and metabolic syndrome, because these have been well established and treatment to address them results in substantial reductions in mortality,” concluded the authors.