Mammograms may be useful predictor of heart disease, stroke

A preliminary study found mammograms could be a more accurate predictor of a woman's risk for major cardiovascular problems than the current standard tool, according to a Nov. 6 American Heart Association news release.

The findings suggest the presence of breast artery calcification could be used as a better predictor of cardiovascular disease.

In the study, 1,216 women aged 40 to 75 who had no coronary artery disease received screening mammograms at Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Researchers found BAC was found in 1 in 5 women screened and that twice as many women with BAC experienced a major cardiovascular event within 10 years than those without.

Women with BAC also tended to be older, more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, and more likely to take cholesterol-lowering statins and blood pressure medications.

Researchers found mammograms were a better predictor of cardiovascular risk than the Pooled Cohort Equation, which is the current standard. It was especially true for those whose risk equation score placed them in low risk — 18% with BAC had cardiovascular events, compared to 7% without calcification.

The study will be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions conference Nov. 13. It is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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