Routine mammography–widely recommended for breast cancer screening–may also be a useful tool to identify women at risk for heart disease, potentially allowing for earlier intervention, according to a study scheduled for presentation at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Session.
Data from this study show for the first time a link between the amount of calcium in the arteries of the breast–readily visible on digital mammography–and the level of calcium buildup in the coronary arteries. Coronary arterial calcification, or CAC, is considered a very early sign of cardiovascular disease. Importantly, the presence of breast arterial calcification also appears to be an equivalent or stronger risk factor for CAC than other well-established cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Earlier research had shown a link between breast arterial calcification and atherosclerotic disease–even heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease events, but researchers said these data provide a more direct relationship between the extent of calcified plaque in the mammary and coronary arteries, as well as a comparison to standard risk evaluation.
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