Women with a history of a false-positive mammogram result may have an increased risk for developing breast cancer for up to 10 years following the false-positive finding, a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention has shown.1

“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,” Louise M. Henderson, PhD, assistant professor of radiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, 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,” Henderson said.

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For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1.3 million women age 40 to 74 years who underwent a total of 2.2 million screening mammographies from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Women were followed for more than 10 years following initial breast cancer screening.

Results showed that women with false-positive mammograms who were referred for additional imaging had a 39% increased risk for developing subsequent breast cancer during the 10 years of follow-up compared with women who had a true-negative mammography result. Researchers found that women who had a false-positive result and were referred for a breast biopsy had a 76% higher risk for developing subsequent breast cancer vs women with a true-negative result.

“We don’t want women to read this and feel worried,” Henderson said. “We intend for our findings to be a useful tool in the context of other risk factors.”


1. American Association for Cancer Research. False-positive mammograms may indicate increased risk of breast cancer later [news release]. EurekAlert! web site. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-12/aafc-fmm113015.php. Posted December 2, 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.