A Link Between Vascular Calcifications on Screening Mammography and Significant Coronary Artery Disease

May 27, 2016


Take-Home Message:

The extent of arterial calcifications seen on screening mammography is a very sensitive and accurate tool to predict coronary artery disease in asymptomatic women.


Digital Mammography and Screening for Coronary Artery Disease

Authors: Margolies L., Salvatore, M., et al.
Source: J Am Coll Cardiol Img. 2016, doi.10.1016/j.jcmg.2015.10.022

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the US.  Many women have coronary artery disease but are asymptomatic. There is great value in a test that can identify these women early on in the course of the disease.

This group examined the occurrence of coronary artery calcification (CAC) among women undergoing screening mammography. Over 290 women who had screening mammograms and noncontrast computed tomography (CT) scans within one year were evaluated. Investigators documented the amount of arterial calcifications in the breast (mammography) and the amount of vascular calcifications in the heart (CT scan) for each woman. The presence of breast arterial calcifications accurately predicted the presence of CAC 70% of the time. Sixty-three percent of women with CAC also had breast vascular calcifications.

[image] calcified blood vessels

The investigators noted that breast arterial calcifications were just as strong a predictor of cardiovascular risk as standard risk tools that are currently in use, and that they were more accurate than these tools. The investigators also noted that, while CAC was about twice as likely with advancing age or high blood pressure, it was three times more likely with breast arterial calcifications.

This data provides insight into how screening mammography may assist providers in assessing a woman’s risk for cardiovascular disease before she develops symptoms. This would allow for early intervention and improved health outcomes.