The low risks from radiation exposure during mammography screening may be even lower than experts have assumed, a new study contends. The new research estimates that the radiation dose from a screening mammogram is anywhere from 20 percent to 35 percent lower than previously thought.
Why? Because past estimates did not account for the uneven distribution of different types of tissue in a typical woman’s breasts. The study was performed at the University of California, Davis and presented at the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. Lead researcher Andrew Hernandez, a Ph.D. candidate, noted that “the breast is composed of skin, fat and glandular tissue, and it’s the glandular tissue that’s potentially at risk from radiation during mammography.”
Past estimates have assumed that fat and glandular tissue are distributed uniformly throughout the breast, but recent research has shown that the different tissue types are actually more “mixed” than originally thought. As such, glandular tissue is actually exposed to about 30 percent less radiation, on average, than assumed.
According to Hernandez, the lower radiation dose provides reassurance to women concerned about the radiation exposure risk versus benefit of screening mammography. It has long been known that modern mammography uses low doses of radiation, and that any risk from regular screening would be greatly outweighed by the benefit of catching breast cancer early.
However, this preliminary research suggest that “a very low risk is even lower than originally thought.”
At Digital Mammography Specialists (DMS), the highly experienced clinical staff adhered to the as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA principle) for mammography imaging. Utilizing digital 2D and 3D tomosynthesis mammography allows DMS to minimize the concern from radiation and ensure the best imaging study for detecting breast cancer.
Lower radiation risk is just one more positive reason for women to obtain their annual screening mammogram. Screening mammography saves lives!
About the author: Raja P. Reddy, MD is a board certified diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast imaging. He is also a contributing editor for Digital Mammography Specialists, a leading provider of outpatient women’s imaging services in the greater Atlanta, GA are