Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

8. How did BCPT and STAR use the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to add to our knowledge of breast cancer risk?

Both breast cancer prevention studies, BCPT and STAR, explored ways of reducing the risk of developing breast cancer; their findings have increased our knowledge of risk. Both trials involved women who have not had breast cancer, but were at high risk of developing it. BCPT used the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to determine eligible participants by projecting each woman's individualized estimate of breast cancer risk. The projections were accurate; thus the BCPT results validated the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. STAR researchers used the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool for determining eligibility for enrollment. All STAR participants had to have an increased risk of breast cancer equivalent to or greater than that of an average 60- to 64-year-old woman.

9. What else can a woman do about breast cancer?

NCI recommends that women in their 40s and older get screening mammograms every one to two years. Women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer should talk with their health care providers about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them. Women also can take an active part in the early detection of breast cancer by having regular clinical breast exams (breast exams performed by health professionals).

Advances in screening have provided new tools for detection. In September of 2005, preliminary results from a large clinical trial of digital vs. film mammography found no difference in detecting breast cancer for the general populations of women in the trial. However, the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST) found that women with dense breasts, who are pre- or perimenopausal (women who had a last menstrual period within 12 months of their mammograms), or who are younger than age 50, may benefit from having a digital rather than a regular film mammogram. More information about DMIST can be found at

Source: U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute,

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