Effect of protocol-related variables and women's characteristics on the cumulative false-positive risk in breast cancer screening

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Background: Reducing the false-positive risk in breast cancer screening is important. We examined how the screening-protocol and women's characteristics affect the cumulative false-positive risk.

Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study of 1 565 364 women aged 45–69 years who underwent 4 739 498 screening mammograms from 1990 to 2006. Multilevel discrete hazard models were used to estimate the cumulative false-positive risk over 10 sequential mammograms under different risk scenarios.

Results: The factors affecting the false-positive risk for any procedure and for invasive procedures were double mammogram reading [odds ratio (OR) = 2.06 and 4.44, respectively], two mammographic views (OR = 0.77 and 1.56, respectively), digital mammography (OR = 0.83 for invasive procedures), premenopausal status (OR = 1.31 and 1.22, respectively), use of hormone replacement therapy (OR = 1.03 and 0.84, respectively), previous invasive procedures (OR = 1.52 and 2.00, respectively), and a familial history of breast cancer (OR = 1.18 and 1.21, respectively). The cumulative false-positive risk for women who started screening at age 50–51 was 20.39% [95% confidence interval (CI) 20.02–20.76], ranging from 51.43% to 7.47% in the highest and lowest risk profiles, respectively. The cumulative risk for invasive procedures was 1.76% (95% CI 1.66–1.87), ranging from 12.02% to 1.58%.

Conclusions: The cumulative false-positive risk varied widely depending on the factors studied. These findings are relevant to provide women with accurate information and to improve the effectiveness of screening programs.

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