Background parenchymal uptake on molecular breast imaging and breast cancer risk: A cohort study

Carrie B. Hruska, Jennifer R. Geske, Amy Lynn Conners, Dana H. Whaley, Deborah J. Rhodes, Michael K. O'Connor, Rickey E. Carter, Christopher G. Scott, Celine M. Vachon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND. Background parenchymal uptake (BPU) on molecular breast imaging (MBI) was identified in a case-control study as a breast cancer risk factor beyond mammographic density. To our knowledge, this finding has not yet been confirmed in a cohort study. OBJECTIVE. The objectives of this study were to examine the association of BPU with breast cancer and to estimate the absolute risk and discriminatory accuracy of BPU in a cohort study. METHODS. A retrospective cohort was established that included women without a history of breast cancer who underwent MBI from 2004 to 2015. Radiologists who were blinded to future breast cancer diagnoses assessed BPU on baseline MBI examinations as low (photopenic or minimal) or elevated (mild, moderate, or marked). Associations of BPU with breast cancer were estimated using multivariable Cox proportional hazards models of the time to diagnosis. The 5-year absolute risk was calculated for study subgroups. The discriminatory accuracy of BPU was also assessed. RESULTS. Among 2992 women (mean age, 56.3 years; SD, 10.6 years) who underwent MBI, breast cancer events occurred in 144 women (median follow-up, 7.3 years). Median time to diagnosis after MBI was 4.2 years (range, 0.5-11.6 years). Elevated BPU was associated with a greater breast cancer risk (hazard ratio [HR], 2.39; 95% CI, 1.68- 3.41; p ≤ .001). This association remained in postmenopausal women (HR, 3.50; 95% CI, 2.31-5.31; p < .001) but was not significant in premenopausal women (HR, 1.29; 95% CI, 0.72-2.32; p = .39). The 5-year absolute risk of breast cancer was 4.3% (95% CI, 2.9-5.7%) for women with elevated BPU versus 2.5% (95% CI, 1.8-3.1%) for those with low BPU. Postmenopausal women with dense breasts and elevated BPU had a 5-year absolute risk of 8.1% (95% CI, 4.3-11.8%) versus 2.8% (1.8-3.8%) for those with low BPU. Among postmenopausal women, discriminatory accuracy for invasive cancer was improved with the addition of BPU versus use of the Gail risk score alone (C statistic, 65.1 vs 59.1; p = .04) or use of the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium risk score alone (C statistic, 66.4 vs 60.4; p = .04). CONCLUSION. BPU on MBI is an independent risk factor for breast cancer, with the strongest association observed among postmenopausal women with dense breasts. In postmenopausal women, BPU provides incremental discrimination in predicting breast cancer when combined with either the Gail model or the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1193-1204
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • 99mTc-sestamibi
  • Background parenchymal uptake
  • Breast cancer risk
  • Breast density
  • Molecular breast imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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