Original article| Volume 24, ISSUE 3, e321-e326, May 2014

Mammographic Breast Density as a Risk Factor for Breast Cancer: Awareness in a Recently Screened Clinical Sample

Published:April 11, 2014DOI:



      Breast density is an established, independent risk factor for breast cancer. Despite this, density has not been included in standard risk models or routinely disclosed to patients. However, this is changing in the face of legal mandates and advocacy efforts. Little information exists regarding women's awareness of density as a risk factor, their personal risk, and risk management options.


      We assessed awareness of density as a risk factor and whether sociodemographic variables, breast cancer risk factors. and perceived breast cancer risk were associated with awareness in 344 women with a recent screening mammogram at a tertiary care center.


      Overall, 62% of women had heard about density as a risk factor and 33% had spoken to a provider about breast density. Of the sample, 18% reported that their provider indicated that they had high breast density. Awareness of density as a risk factor was greater among White women and those with other breast cancer risk factors.


      Our results suggest that although a growing number of women are aware of breast density as a risk factor, this awareness varies. Growing mandates for disclosure suggest the need for patient education interventions for women at increased risk for the disease and to ensure all women are equally aware of their risks.
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      Suzanne C. O’Neill, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Oncology at Georgetown University.


      Kara Grace Leventhal, BA, is a Medical Student at Georgetown University School of Medicine.


      Marie Scarles, BA, is a Research Assistant at Georgetown University.


      Chalanda N. Evans, BA, is a Research Assistant at Georgetown University.


      Erini Makariou, MD, is Associate Professor of Radiology and Chief of Breast Imaging at Georgetown University.


      Edward Pien, MD, is Associate Professor of Radiology and Chief of Diagnostic Imaging at Georgetown University.


      Shawna Willey, MD, is Associate Professor of Surgery, Division Chief of Breast Surgery, and Director of the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center at Georgetown University.