Double-Duty Detection

Mammograms detect cardiovascular disease marker in patients with kidney disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mammograms may be able to serve another purpose besides detecting breast cancer. The diagnostic tool has been shown to detect calcifications in the blood vessels of patients with advanced kidney disease.

Calcium deposits appear in the breast arteries of almost two-thirds of women with end-stage renal disease (ERSD), making breast arterial calcification "a specific and useful marker of medial vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease (CKD)," according to principal investigator W. Charles O'Neill, MD, of Emory University, Atlanta.

CKD is not uncommon. A projected 23 million adults age 20 and older have physiological evidence of CKD per data collected through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

O'Neill said the calcification's prevalence markedly increases in ESRD, which may account for the mortality rate in CKD and ERSD from heart disease. Calcifications can appear in the inner layer of blood vessels (resulting in atherosclerosis) and can also build up in the middle layer of vessels, making them harder to detect. Deposits in the middle layer of vessels may contribute to heart disease by making arteries stiffer.

A team of researchers from Emory University analyzed samples of breast artery tissue from 16 women with kidney disease and found that, while all of the samples showed medial (middle-layer) calcifications of the breast artery, none exhibited intimal (inner-layer) calcifications.

Researchers then performed mammograms in 71 women with ESRD and found calcifications in 63 percent of the women. By contrast, only 17 percent of participants without kidney disease showed breast arterial calcification.

The finding suggests chronic kidney disease increases the risk ofl calcification, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

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Review Date: 
January 23, 2011
Last Updated:
January 24, 2011