The routine mammograms women receive to check for breast cancer may also offer clues to their risk for heart disease, new research suggests.
White spots or lines visible on mammograms indicate a buildup of calcium in breast arteries. This breast arterial calcification is different from coronary artery calcification, which is known to be a marker for higher cardiovascular risk. For the study, researchers followed 5,059 postmenopausal women (ages 60 to 79) for six and a half years. They found that those with breast arterial calcification were 51% more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than those without calcification. The study was published March 15, 2022, in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.
Mammography reports don't always include information about calcifications in the breast arteries. The study authors hope their findings lead to changes in guidelines so that reports include this information in the future. They caution, however, that the absence of calcification in breast arteries doesn't necessarily translate to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
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