Increased breast density is a known risk factor for the development of breast cancer and now researchers at the University of Adelaide have found that chronic low-level inflammation can lead to increased breast density and increased risk for inflammation associated breast cancer.
Breasts are made up of a mixture of fibrous and glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Your breasts are considered dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue but not much fat. Less than 10% of women have extremely high breast density.
The new findings have been published in the international journal Breast Cancer Research, and the research is led by The Hospital Research Foundation’s Breast Cancer Research Fellow, Associate Professor Wendy Ingman from the University of Adelaide.
“We induced a low level of chronic inflammation in our lab models and found it was a particular protein called CCL2 that caused the increase in inflammation. This led to an increase in the density in the tissue and also an increased risk of breast cancer,” Associate Professor Ingman said.“While it is already known that certain types of anti-inflammatories (such as aspirin) can reduce breast cancer risk, they are associated with longer term side effects and not recommended for women to help reduce their breast cancer risk.
“With this research we believe we may be able to identify the women most at risk of inflammation-associated breast cancer through measuring their breast density and therefore identify those who will most benefit from anti-inflammatory treatment,” Associate Professor Ingman said.
BreastScreen Victoria CEO, Vicki Pridmore said that while there was no agreement on how to consistently measure a woman’s breast density, the research findings were another positive step forward in understanding an individual woman’s risks.
“Regular breast screens remain the best way of monitoring for any change in breast tissue,” Ms Pridmore said. “It’s important that every woman is proactive about their own wellbeing.
“This great Australian research is another important step towards having a better understanding of a disease which affects so many women and their families.”
BreastScreen Australia supports research, greater discussion, and public awareness of breast density, and has released a Position Statement on breast density and screening.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists has also released a Position Statement on breast density.
Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has information about breast density and screening. You can read it here.