Tuesday Bits and Bytes: Mammo Ups Breast Cancer Risk?

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Amidst a hurricane of controversy surrounding the US Preventative Services Task Force's new mammography screening recommendations comes fresh research presented today at RSNA 2009: low-dose radiation from annual mammography screening could up the risk of developing breast cancer in some high-risk women. In a retrospective study of high-risk women, those who were exposed to low-dose radiation experienced a risk of breast cancer 1.5 times that of high-risk women not exposed to radiation. "Our findings suggest that low-dose radiation increases breast cancer risk among these young high-risk women, and a careful approach is warranted," said the study's lead author.

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A new study out of UCSD indicares that MRI can aid in the detection of placenta accreta, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication that is the leading cause of death for women just before and after giving birth. 108 patients were scanned for placenta accreta using MRI between 1992 and 2009; MRI, which does not subject the mother or the fetus to radiation, had a 90.1% accuracy rate at diagnosing the condition. "Having placenta accreta is not necessarily a bad prognostic indicator for the pregnancy," said the study's lead researcher. "It is not knowing about the condition that is potentially life-threatening."

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Elastography's been a buzzword at this year's RSNA meeting, and today, new research shows that high-frequency ultrasound with elastography can be used to identify skin cancer. Suspicious skin lesions are typically diagnosed by dermatologists, then biopsied based on their surface appearance; but benign and malignant lesions can often look the same, and some malignant lesions can even have a benign appearance. In a study out of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, elastography was found to accurately detect malignancies by measuring tissue stiffness, and was even useful in determining the extent and depth of the lesion. "High-frequency ultrasound with elastography has the potential to improve the efficiency of skin cancer diagnosis," concluded the study's lead author.

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Results of a clinical trial presented today indicate that there may be a connection between peripheral arterial disease and severe asymptomatic heart disease. CT images of clinical trial patients showed that a full 20% of those with PAD also had an asymptomatic coronary artery condition. "PAD patients, including those experiencing no symptoms of heart disease, are known to be at high risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke," said the study's lead author. "The results of our trial stress that PAD patients without a history of cardiac symptoms should undergo extensive cardiovascular risk factor management."