The Australian Mammographic Density Network (TANDeM)

Start Year: 2011
Finish Year: 2011
Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Melissa Southey
Grant Type: Other
Institution: University of Melbourne

Think Tank

Mammographic density (MD), the white appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram (breast xray), is one of the strongest risk factors for breast cancer. Women with extensive MD are 2-6 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women of the same age with little or no MD and in screening programs, like BreastScreen Australia, mammography sometimes doesn’t work as well for women with mammographically denser breasts.

Very little is known as to why MD is such a strong risk factor for breast cancer, but both environmental and genetic factors appear to play a role. The more we learn about MD, the better our understanding of the causes of breast cancer. Also, the measurement of MD has the potential to be used by screening programs to help identify and target women at higher risk which could lead to earlier diagnoses and thus, better breast cancer outcomes, making a major impact on breast cancer control worldwide.

MD can only be measured from a mammogram and cannot be determined by feel or touch. MD is not currently being measured in clinical practice due to its crude and impractical measurement and because there are no clear evidence-base or policies about what to do with the information.

This Think Tank was held on 23 August 2011.