Breast cancer risk is increased in the years following false-positive breast cancer screening

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A small number of studies have investigated breast cancer (BC) risk among women with a history of false-positive recall (FPR) in BC screening, but none of them has used time-to-event analysis while at the same time quantifying the effect of false-negative diagnostic assessment (FNDA). FNDA occurs when screening detects BC, but this BC is missed on diagnostic assessment (DA). As a result of FNDA, screenings that detected cancer are incorrectly classified as FPR. Our study linked data recorded in the Flemish BC screening program (women aged 50–69 years) to data from the national cancer registry. We used Cox proportional hazards models on a retrospective cohort of 298 738 women to assess the association between FPR and subsequent BC, while adjusting for potential confounders. The mean follow-up was 6.9 years. Compared with women without recall, women with a history of FPR were at an increased risk of developing BC [hazard ratio=2.10 (95% confidence interval: 1.92–2.31)]. However, 22% of BC after FPR was due to FNDA. The hazard ratio dropped to 1.69 (95% confidence interval: 1.52–1.87) when FNDA was excluded. Women with FPR have a subsequently increased BC risk compared with women without recall. The risk is higher for women who have a FPR BI-RADS 4 or 5 compared with FPR BI-RADS 3. There is room for improvement of diagnostic assessment: 41% of the excess risk is explained by FNDA after baseline screening.

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