Women with dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer than women with less dense breasts. Compared to non-dense breasts, dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more fibrous and glandular tissue. Breast fibrous and glandular tissue is mainly made up of water. A study suggests that figuring out the water content of a young woman's breast tissue may help predict her risk of breast cancer in later life.
The researchers used MRI to determine the water content of breast tissue in 400 young women aged 15 to 30. The researchers also determined the breast density of most of the young women's mothers using mammograms or by determining the water content of their breast tissue using MRI. The researchers then compared the results of the daughters' breast tissue water content and the mothers' breast density. The researchers used MRI to determine breast tissue water content in the young women because a mammogram would have exposed the young women to a level of radiation that was considered inappropriate for their age for strictly research purposes.
- Young women with higher breast tissue water content were more likely to have mothers with dense breasts.
- Breast density and breast tissue water content are linked to height. A taller woman is more likely to have denser breasts with higher breast tissue water content.
- Both breast density and breast tissue water content tend to go down as a woman's weight goes up. Breast density and breast tissue water content also go down as a woman gets older.
- Higher breast tissue water content in the young women was linked to higher levels of growth hormone. This link could explain the connection between height and breast density and breast tissue water content. Other research has shown that higher levels of growth hormone are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
While determining the breast density or breast tissue water content of young women isn't done routinely, this study suggests that breast tissue water content might be a good way to estimate the breast density of young women. Since denser breasts are linked to higher breast cancer risk, measuring the breast tissue water content may help assess a young woman's future breast cancer risk. More research is needed to figure out if breast tissue water content can be a practical tool for young women who want to know as much as they can about their individual risk level.