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LBI Research

Research

London Breast Institute Briefing: Breast Density Research

The London Breast Institute, at the Princess Grace Hospital, specialises in breast care. It provides a multidisciplinary approach to the diagnosis, treatment and clinical care of patients with all types of breast disease.

This venture partners academic and research skills with medical diagnostic and treatment expertise from the Princess Grace Hospital. A range of clinical, academic and research skills is reflected in a unique team that has not previously existed in the independent sector.

It also works closely with its sister hospitals in HCA International including with the London Cancer Centre at the Harley St Clinic and the breast care programme at the Portland Hospital for Women and Children.

The Princess Grace Hospital was the first in the UK to offer patients full field digital mammography. The London Breast Institute’s comprehensive care extends from diagnosis, treatment and reconstructive surgery.

  • Breast Screening
  • Breast Ultrasound
  • Stereotactic and ultrasound guided fine needle aspirations and core biopsies
  • Suros ATEC® vacuum assisted breast biopsy system
  • Specialist breast surgery
  • Rapid access to cytopathology

Our expert diagnostic team, consultant surgeons, inpatient nurses and breast care nurses provide unparalleled care and support to each patient, to deliver the best possible clinical and personal outcomes.

To make an appointment at the Institute please call 020 7908 2003/4 or send us an email

Breast Density Research

Vast amounts of clinical data are gathered at the Princess Grace Hospital as we care for our patients. That data includes over 40,000 digital mammograms and the clinical records of hundreds of women diagnosed with breast cancer, many from younger age groups. Breast cancer rates are known to be increasing among younger women. By analysing this data, we further the knowledge of diagnosing and treating breast disease.

In 2007 the London Breast Institute undertook its first research project, investigating a sample of digital mammograms of women living or working in an urban environment (London). The objective of this research was to determine whether these women are more likely to have denser breast tissue than more rural based women. Following launch at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference, worldwide media exposure reached over 300 million people.

Breast tissue in women may be fatty, glandular or a mix of both. Those with more glandular breasts show denser tissue on a mammogram.

X-ray of fatty breast tissue (Figure 1) X-ray of dense breast tissue (Figure 2)
X-rays of fatty breast tissue (Figure 1) and X-ray of dense breast tissue (Figure 2)

The more dense the tissue, the more difficult it is to identify abnormalities on traditional mammogram x-rays, making it essential to use digital mammography to reveal potential breast cancers at the earliest stages of development.

It is commonly known that denser breast tissue is the most likely to develop breast cancer (see Figure 3. below)

Figure 3. Density and Breast Cancer Relative Risk
Figure 3. Density and Breast Cancer Relative Risk

Findings

Women who live or work in the City and Central London were found to have denser, more glandular breasts than their non-urban counterparts.

Reasons for these findings are uncertain but may include factors such as stress, pollution and lifestyle.

The study found that women

  • living in most highly populated areas in the UK have denser breast tissue
  • working and/or living in the Square Mile of central London, had the densest breasts of the study population
  • under 50 years old accounted for no less than 40% of all the cancers diagnosed at the London Breast Institute

Figure 4. Percentage of study population showing greater than 25% density present
Figure 4. Percentage of study population showing greater than 25% density present

These results indicate, for the first time, that women living and working in an urban environment have a higher risk of more dense breast tissue.

Digital Mammography at the London Breast Institute

The more dense the breast tissue, the more difficult it is to identify abnormalities on traditional mammogram x-rays. It is essential to use only digital mammography that reveals potential breast cancers at the earliest stages of development, even in dense breast tissue.

Although, the causes of breast cancer cannot be attributed to any one factor alone, there are actions women can take to lessen their chances of developing it:

  • live and eat healthily
  • exercise regularly
  • do not smoke
  • examine your breasts for any sign of change
  • have digital mammography, regularly, once you reach the age of 40

The London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace Hospital provides digital mammography as a part of a complete range of services covering diagnostics, through to surgery and follow-up care.

For appointments contact: