Among high-risk women undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screening, those with background parenchymal enhancement are nine times more likely to develop breast cancer over the next couple of years, according to a new study.

The findings, published in Radiology, suggest that MRIs could have value beyond detecting breast cancer.

“It’s possible that down the line, we could use it to help predict which women will develop breast cancer,” study coauthor Habib Rahbar, M.D., a radiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, told HealthDay.

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The new findings are based on medical records from 487 women who underwent MRI screening for breast cancer between 2006 and 2011.

All fit the American Cancer Society’s definition of high risk. During the study period, 23 women were diagnosed with breast cancer — an average of two years after their first MRI screening.

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Rahbar’s team then compared those patients with high-risk women who had not developed breast cancer. They found that the presence of background parenchymal enhancement on a woman’s initial MRI seemed to predict a greater cancer risk.

Women with at least mild background parenchymal enhancement were nine times more likely to develop the disease, versus those without the MRI finding.


  1. Dontchos, Brian N., MD, et al. “Are Qualitative Assessments of Background Parenchymal Enhancement, Amount of Fibroglandular Tissue on MR Images, and Mammographic Density Associated with Breast Cancer Risk?” Radiology. DOI: [epub ahead of print]. 2015.