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Does Mammography Cause Cancer?

Do Yearly Mammograms Increase The Risk Of Getting Breast Cancer?

Answer provided by Dr. Christopher Ananian

Radiologists have always been cognizant of the fine line in imaging, weighing the risk of screening mammograms with the amount of radiation exposure, versus the benefit of using ionizing radiation for the detection of cancers

Radiologists have always been cognizant of the fine line in imaging, weighing the risk versus the benefit of using ionizing radiation for the detection of cancers. While many modalities use radiation for imaging (X-Ray, CT, nuclear medicine imaging, and mammography), breast screening is carefully regulated by the Mammography Quality Standards Act  (MQSA) to ensure that the radiation dose is as low as possible. Since the risk of radiation-induced cancers increases with the radiation dose, the MQSA maintains a tight regulation on the radiation exposure used with mammography and the radiologists are very careful to ensure the minimum number of images. To put this dose exposed to the breast tissue in prospective, the average effective dose from natural background radiation in the United States, excluding man-made and medical sources, is about 3 mSv per year. The average effective dose from two-view digital mammography is 0.4 mSv or approximate 7 weeks of natural background radiation.

Many studies have looked at the effect of radiation exposure and the development of cancer, with most of the data collected from following 76,000 Japanese atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki for over 50 years. Based on this information, the  United States National Academy of Sciences Biologic Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VII Group, which has estimated radiation risks to the U.S. population, and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) have studied the relationship of radiation dose and the lifetime attributable risk (LARs) of radiation-induced solid cancers such as breast cancers.  According to the BEIR VII study, an average glandular dose of 3.7 mGy for a two-view digital mammogram results in a lifetime risk of developing 1.3 cases per 100,000 women aged 40 at exposure and less than 1 case per million women aged 80 years at exposure.  Since these studies assume a cumulative effect of radiation exposure, annual screening digital mammograms performed on women aged 40-80 is associated with a LAR of fatal breast cancers of 20-25 cases per 100,000 women screened.

In addition to the risk of radiation induced breast cancer, the benefits of breast imaging is also important to discuss. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women with 1.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. One in 8 women will develop breast cancer over their lifetime with increased cancer development occurring with age. By age 40, one in 69 women will develop breast cancer, with that risk increasing to 1 in 27 women by age 70. One of the greatest factors in determining the severity and prognosis of breast cancer is early detection through annual screening mammography.

As radiologists, we are constantly weighing the benefits of imaging versus the risk of causing harm though the use of radiation. However, with annual mammographic screenings, the risk of possibly causing 20-25 cancers per 100,000 women pales in comparison with the number of cancers found and lives potentially saved through early detection. At Princeton Radiology,  our mammographic units use a radiation dose well below the recommended MQSA levels of 3 mGy per image and even with tomograpohic (3-D) images, each view only results in a dose of 1.45 mGy in order to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure. Through the use of 3-D tomographic images, the need for additional images in order to work up breast findings is also significantly decreased. Additional imaging modalities which do not involve the use of ionizing radiation such as ultrasound and MRI, are also routinely used to work up breast abnormalities in order to decrease the potential radiation exposure. Annual screening breast ultrasounds are also used in women with dense breast tissue to further evaluate the breast without causing additional exposure. At Princeton Radiology, your radiologists are committed to providing the best imaging experience while always ensuring the safest practices are followed.

New Research Study Confirms-Mammograms EVERY YEAR Save Lives

Worried about lung cancer?

Freehold Radiology is now part of Princeton Radiology

New Jersey Law Now Requires Insurers to Cover 3D Mammograms—Including 3D SmartMamm™ at Princeton Radiology.

Insurance Requirements Under New Jersey Law Beginning August 2018

Health insurers, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and health benefits plans and contracts
must now cover

  • 3D mammograms to screen for breast cancer in women age 40 and over
  • 3D mammograms to diagnose or rule out breast cancer in women of any age when breast cancer is suspected

This mandate is effective for fully insured health plans and the State Health Benefits Program issued or renewed on or after August 1, 2018. Self-funded health plans can choose to offer this mandated benefit.

Benefits of 3D SmartMamm™

  • 3D mammography for enhanced detection of breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage
  • Especially beneficial to women with dense breast tissue, which makes cancer harder to see
  • Lifetime risk assessment to help you and your doctor formulate a proactive monitoring plan
  • Same day results available
  • Convenient access at five locations with appointment times seven days a week

Now there’s no reason to delay your 3D SmartMamm™.

New Dotarem MRI Contrast



Princeton Radiology is dedicated to providing the safest and most accurate imaging for your diagnostic needs. To that end, we have recently changed the gadolinium-based contrast agent (GBCA) that is used throughout our practice for Dotarem contrast MRI studies.

After extensive research and review, Princeton Radiology has selected Dotarem® (gadoterate meglumine) as our GBCA of choice. Dotarem is the only macrocyclic and ionic gadolinium-based contrast agent available in the United States and demonstrates the highest intrinsic stability and lowest retention with excellent diagnostic characteristics.

Dotarem has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for intravenous use in pediatric patients under two years old, including term neonates. Dotarem is approved in 79 countries worldwide and more than 65 million doses have been administered since it was first launched. There have been no unconfounded cases of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis reported for Dotarem.

Dotarem is the only macrocyclic and ionic gadolinium-based contrast agent available in the United States and demonstrates the highest intrinsic stability and lowest retention with excellent diagnostic characteristics.

DOTAREM is a gadolinium-based contrast agent indicated: for intravenous use. with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in brain (intracranial), spine and. associated tissues in adult and pediatric patients (including term neonates) to. detect and visualize areas with disruption of the blood brain barrier (BBB)

Assessment of renal function prior to contrast enhanced MRI studies is no longer required due to Dotarem’s stability and low retention.

Princeton Radiology will continue to assess advancements in GBCA’s and modify clinical practice accordingly as new data becomes available.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.


Princeton Radiology Associates, P.A.