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July 18, 1980

Can mammographic parenchymal patterns foretell breast cancer?

JAMA. 1980;244(3):221-224. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310030003001

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Results of two recent studies challenge the value of breast parenchymal patterns as seen on mammography for predicting development of breast cancer in healthy women.

But John Wolfe, MD, the radiologist who originally proposed that breast parenchymal patterns are related to risk of subsequent breast cancer, questions whether the investigators involved correctly classified the mammograms.

It is important to determine the accuracy of the Wolfe classification scheme in predicting the development of breast cancer in healthy women, since it appears that a sizeable number of physicians already use this system to determine frequency of follow-up mammograms. At least one group in addition to Wolfe's even recommends prophylactic mastectomies on the basis of the patterns (see also pp 287-288).

Accordingly, one group of radiologists has begun a long-term, prospective, multi-institutional study to test the predictive value of the system.

Wolfe, who is chief of radiology at Hutzel Hospital, Detroit, and clinical