Dense breasts are a risk factor for breast cancer.
In fact, it’s one of the higher risk factors for this disease when the density level is considered to be extremely and even heterogeneously dense.
A woman with dense breasts is four to six times more likely to get cancer when compared to a woman with the so-called fatty breasts.
Dense breast tissue is more prevalent in younger women.
And this is why mammograms are not encouraged for women of average risk who are under the age of 40.
As women age, breast tissue tends to lose its density. About 10 percent of all women have what would be considered dense breasts.
Is there anything a woman can do to make them LESS dense?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing she can do. There is no diet, no supplement, no yoga pose, no type of strength training, no aerobic activity, no pills, shots or drugs – nothing – nothing can change what nature gave her.
“The density of breast tissue usually becomes an issue when undergoing screening for breast cancer, as dense breast tissue can make it difficult to interpret mammogram imaging,” says Lindsay Appel, MD, an OB-GYN with the Family Childbirth & Children’s Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Dr. Appel continues, “Dense breast tissue is made up of connective tissue, blood vessels and ducts. Other tissue in the breast is fat tissue.
“It is more common to have dense breast tissue when women are premenopausal. Exposure to estrogen, like taking birth control pills, can also increase breast density.”
However, there are women with heterogeneously and even extremely dense breasts who have never taken birth control pills or estrogen treatments.
And there are many women with nearly all-fatty breasts who’ve taken birth control pills.
In general, the composition of breast tissue is the cards that a woman was dealt with at conception—her genetic blueprint.
With all that said, you should find out from the radiologist who reads your mammograms what your density level is. There are four categories:
• Scattered density
• Heterogeneously dense
• Extremely dense
Do you know about tomosynthesis?
This is a 3D mammogram. It “sees” things better than does a 2D (the more conventional) mammogram.
Look at it this way: Imagine that you’re standing outside a forest, trying with your eyes to locate a bird’s nest inside of it. That’s a 2D mammogram.
Now imagine that you’re hovering above the forest, an aerial view as you move around, and you’re looking down in search of that bird’s nest. That’s tomosynthesis.
While there is nothing a woman can do to make her breasts less dense, what she CAN do is take measures to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of cancer, which includes structured exercise sessions and sticking to a plant-based diet.
Dr. Appel addresses a full range of obstetric and gynecologic needs for women. She has participated in several OBGYN research presentations at professional conferences.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.