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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Increase in mammography detected breast cancer over time at a community based regional cancer center: a longitudinal cohort study 1990–2005

Judith A Malmgren12*, Mary K Atwood3 and Henry G Kaplan3

Author Affiliations

1 HealthSTAT Consulting Inc., Seattle, WA, USA

2 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

3 Swedish Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Cancer 2008, 8:131  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-131

Published: 10 May 2008



Coincident with the advent of mammography screening, breast carcinoma in situ has increased in the US population.


We conducted a prospective cohort study of all women presenting with primary breast cancer, aged 21–94, and biopsy confirmed Stage 0-IV from 1990–2005 identified and tracked by our registry. Clinical presentation characteristics including age, race, TNM stage, family and pregnancy history, histologic type and method of detection by patient (PtD), physician (PhysD) or mammography (MgD) were chart abstracted at time of diagnosis. Cases with unknown or other method of detection (n = 84), or unusual cell types (n = 26) were removed (n = 6074).


From 1990 to 1998 the percentage of PtD and MgD cases was roughly equivalent. In 1999 the percentage of MgD cases increased to 56% and PtD dropped to 37%, a significant 20% differential, constant to 2005 (Pearson chi square = 120.99, p < .001). Overall, percent TNM stage 0 (breast carcinoma in situ) cases increased after 1990, percent stage I and III cases declined, and stage II and IV cases remained constant (Pearson chi square = 218.36, p < .001). Increase in MgD over time differed by age group with an 8.5% increase among women age 40–49 and 12% increase among women age 50–95. Women age 21–39 rarely had MgD BC. In forward stepwise logistic regression modeling, significant predictors of MgD BC by order of entry were TNM stage, age at diagnosis, diagnosis year, and race (chi square = 1867.56, p < .001).


In our cohort the relative proportion of mammography detected breast cancer increased over time with a higher increase among women age 50+ and an increase of breast carcinoma in situ exclusively among MgD cases. The increase among women currently targeted by mammography screening programs (age ≥ 50) combined with an increase of breast carcinoma in situ most often detected by mammography screening indicates a possible incidence shift to lower stage breast cancer as a result of mammographic detection.