Independent predictors of breast malignancy in screen-detected microcalcifications: Biopsy results in 2545 cases

G. Farshid, Thomas Sullivan, P. Downey, P. G. Gill, S. Pieterse

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mammographic microcalcifications are associated with many benign lesions, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive cancer. Careful assessment criteria are required to minimise benign biopsies while optimising cancer diagnosis. We wished to evaluate the assessment outcomes of microcalcifications biopsied in the setting of population-based breast cancer screening.Methods: Between January 1992 and December 2007, cases biopsied in which microcalcifications were the only imaging abnormality were included. Patient demographics, imaging features and final histology were subjected to statistical analysis to determine independent predictors of malignancy. Results: In all, 2545 lesions, with a mean diameter of 21.8 mm (s.d. 23.8 mm) and observed in patients with a mean age of 57.7 years (s.d. 8.4 years), were included. Using the grading system adopted by the RANZCR, the grade was 3 in 47.7%; 4 in 28.3% and 5 in 24.0%. After assessment, 1220 lesions (47.9%) were malignant (809 DCIS only, 411 DCIS with invasive cancer) and 1325 (52.1%) were non-malignant, including 122 (4.8%) premalignant lesions (lobular carcinoma in situ, atypical lobular hyperplasia and atypical ductal hyperplasia). Only 30.9% of the DCIS was of low grade.Mammographic extent of microcalcifications 15 mm, imaging grade, their pattern of distribution, presence of a palpable mass and detection after the first screening episode showed significant univariate associations with malignancy. On multivariate modeling imaging grade, mammographic extent of microcalcifications 15 mm, palpable mass and screening episode were retained as independent predictors of malignancy. Radiological grade had the largest effect with lesions of grade 4 and 5 being 2.2 and 3.3 times more likely to be malignant, respectively, than grade 3 lesions.Conclusion:The radiological grading scheme used throughout Australia and parts of Europe is validated as a useful system of stratifying microcalcifications into groups with significantly different risks of malignancy. Biopsy assessment of appropriately selected microcalcifications is an effective method of detecting invasive breast cancer and DCIS, particularly of non-low-grade subtypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1669-1675
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • breast cancer
  • mammography
  • microcalcifications
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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