Chest x-rays may increase likelihood of breast cancer

October 1, 2006

An analysis of 1600 women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations suggests that exposure to chest x-rays may increase the risk of breast cancer. Exposure before the age of 20 may be linked to particularly heightened risk.

The research, conducted by a consortium of European cancer centers, was the first to analyze the impact of low-level x-ray exposure among women genetically at high risk for the disease (J Clin Oncol 2006;24[21]:3361-3366).

This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that women genetically predisposed to breast cancer may be more susceptible to low-dose ionizing radiation than other women. If the findings are confirmed in prospective studies, young women in families known to have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations may wish to consider alternatives to x-ray, such as MRI, investigators said.