False-positive results on a screening mammogram are associated with a greater risk of developing breast cancer in the 10 years following the result, according to a study published online ahead of print December 2 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention.


Lead author Louise M. Henderson, PhD, and fellow investigators used data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium collected from 1994 to 2009, including 2.2 million screening mammogram results for 1.3 million women aged 40 to 74 years in their analysis. The researchers found that women with a false-positive finding who were referred for additional imaging had a 39% increased risk of developing breast cancer in the following decade and women with a false-positive result who were referred for biopsy had a 76% increased risk, when compared with women who received a true-negative result (defined as no cancer in the year following the examination). 


“Our finding that breast cancer risk remains elevated up to 10 years after the false-positive result suggests that the radiologist observed suspicious findings on mammograms that are a marker of future cancer risk,” Dr. Henderson said. “Given that the initial result is a false-positive, it is possible that the abnormal pattern, while noncancerous, is a radiographic marker associated with subsequent cancer.”