Digital Mammograms Could Also Reveal Heart Disease Risk

Reuters Health – Mammograms performed to check the health of the breasts could also give clues to the health of the heart, researchers say.

That’s because the amount of calcium in the arteries of the breast, which can be seen on a digital mammogram, seems to reflect the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.

Although women are commonly screened for breast cancer with mammography, there is no routine screening test for heart disease. Calcium in the coronary arteries is known to be an early sign of heart disease. Finding a link between calcium in the breast arteries and calcium in the coronary arteries is a reason to “pay attention,” study coauthor Dr. Jagat Narula from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City told Reuters Health by email.

Narula and colleagues will report their findings April 3 at the American College of Cardiology annual scientific session in Chicago as well as in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.

For the study, the Mount Sinai team analyzed heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and smoking, in 292 women who underwent both digitalmammography and a chest computed tomography (CT) scan.

They found that 42.5 percent of the women had calcium in their breast arteries, as shown by digital mammography. Those women were significantly older and had more high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease compared with women who didn’t have breast arterial calcium.

Coronary artery calcium, as shown in the CT scans, was noted in 47.5 percent of the women, who were also significantly older and had more high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and diabetes compared with the women who didn’t have coronary artery calcium.

Subsequent analyses revealed that the presence of breast arterial calcium was about 70 percent accurate overall in —> Read More