Surprising Research Findings: Mammograms May Raise Risk of Breast Cancer

By Emily Murray

In what seems to be an ironic twist, studies have found that mammograms, tests intended for early breast cancer detection, may actually raise cancer likelihood for at-risk women.

During a routine mammogram, a woman is exposed to radiation which  is a known catalyst for cancer. For those young women who are already at an elevated risk of developing breast cancer than their peers this added dose of routine radiation through the screening process may be enough to push the odds of cancer up even higher. While researchers can’t exactly prove a direct link, their findings have begun raising questions in the medical community. It has also pointed out a valid reason that it may be safer for these at-risk women to use different screening methods, like an MRI, for early detection. MRIs are preferable since they do not use radiation, but magnetic forces in order to create an image.

For some time now the medical community has been split on the usefulness of mammograms in women under 50 but with this new research, which was published recently in the journal BMJ, they may be closer to agreeing on a testing standard for younger women.

Researchers state that for these at-risk women, their genes may be more sensitive to radiation since they are working on fixing their DNA problems. The radiation can interrupt this and magnify the issue.

The European researchers responsible for this study discovered that of the women in their study, those who had been exposed to chest radiation in their 20s were at a 43% increased risk of breast cancer when compared to women of any age who were not exposed to chest radiation.

In many other countries medical professionals already recommend that younger women use alternate, non-radiation forms of screening for breast cancer prevention in order to reduce radiation.

Researchers also found that radiation exposure seems to make an impact largely only in women under the age of 30.

While this increased risk appears to be well founded, researchers also made sure to warn women who do have the increased likelihood of developing breast cancer to not avoid x-rays in the chest area if needed for some other medical reason. They merely warn these women, especially under the age of 30, to be certain they are only exposed when absolutely necessary.