Mammography: tool for detecting cardiovascular disease?

The presence of breast vascular calcifications on routine screening mammography increases the risk of coronary artery disease by 32%, the risk of ischemic stroke by 41%, and threat of risk of heart failure by 52%, according to a cohort study of almost 13,000 women between the ages of 40 and 79. No significant relationships were found with transient ischemic attacks or hemorrhagic stroke.

Breast vascular calcification was present in about 3% of the women studied. The increased risks were tallied after adjustment for age, education level, race, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, body mass index, serum total cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, parental history of myocardial infarction, parity, and hormone replacement therapy.

The researchers concluded that because mammography is relatively inexpensive and is recommended yearly after age 40 anyway, it may prove to be a useful adjunctive tool in the prediction of cardiovascular disease risk.

Iribarren C, Go AS, Tolstykh I, et al. Breast vascular calcification and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. J Women's Health. 2004;13:381-389.

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