Calcification of breast blood vessels may predict stroke risk

HONOLULU, April 25 Women whose routine mammograms revealed calcification in the blood vessels of the breasts were at increased risk for stroke, although those who had calcification only in their milk ducts were not, according to a long-term study presented at the American Heart Associations Asia Pacific Scientific Forum. Women with breast blood vessel calcification had a 54 percent increased risk of ischemic stroke compared to women without calcification, says Carlos Iribarren, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., investigator in the division of research at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California. Women who had calcification in their milk ducts, another finding during mammography, were not at increased risk of stroke.

The 16,305 women underwent routine mammography between 1964 and 1973 at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals as part of voluntary health checkups. Their health history was tracked for 20 years. Mammograms, which are relatively inexpensive and recommended annually for women after age 40, eventually may be used for early detection of stroke risk among women. But it is too soon to recommend mammography for this purpose, says Iribarren.

Mammograms should not replace conventional cardiovascular risk assessment tools, such as cholesterol measurements, blood pressure, smoking status, physical activity, diet or newer blood markers, such as homocysteine levels or C-reactive protein, he says. However, mammograms might someday be used in addition to standard screening tools to better determine a womans risk, he added.

Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. C-reactive protein is a blood marker for inflammation, which researchers are finding may be an integral part of the cardiovascular disease process.

Ischemic stroke, the most common form of stroke, occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow supplying part of the brain. Clots are more likely to block vessels narrowed by atherosclerosis, the b

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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