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However, the scans are less likely to detect tumors in premenopausal women, they added.
"Our findings are not really surprising because we know that the risk of breast cancer increases as age increases," lead investigator Dr. Johnny Ray Bernard Jr., a radiation oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., said in a news release from the clinic. "Elderly women in good health potentially benefit from earlier detection, and we believe that screening of the undiagnosed breast with MRI should be considered in all postmenopausal women diagnosed with a breast cancer."
The study authors looked at the records of 425 women with breast cancer who underwent MRI scans of both breasts from 2003 to 2007. The goal was to discover how often the scans turned up cancer in breasts that were thought to be cancer-free.
The researchers found that women 70 and older were especially likely to have cancer turn up in the MRI scans: It was detected in the second breast in 5.4 percent of 129 women 70 and older.
"The combination of older age and a personal breast cancer history possibly makes women aged 70 years or older with newly diagnosed breast cancer at even higher risk" for developing breast cancer in both breasts, he said.
The findings appear in the March/April issue of The Breast Journal.
-- Randy Dotinga
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