Breast tumor characteristics as predictors of mammographic detection: comparison of interval- and screen-detected cancers

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999 Dec 1;91(23):2020-8. doi: 10.1093/jnci/91.23.2020.


Background: Although mammographic screening is useful for detecting early breast cancer, some tumors are detected in the interval between screening examinations. This study attempted to characterize fully the tumors detected in the two different manners.

Methods: Our study utilized a case-control design and involved a cohort of women undergoing mammographic screening within the defined population of a health maintenance organization (the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound). Women were classified as having "interval" or "interval-detected" cancers (n = 150) if their diagnosis was made within 24 months after a negative-screening mammogram or one that indicated a benign condition. Cancers were classified as "screen detected" (n = 279) if the diagnosis occurred after a positive assessment by screening mammography. Tumors from women in each group were evaluated for clinical presentation, histology, proliferative characteristics, and expression of hormone receptors, p53 tumor suppressor protein, and c-erbB-2 protein.

Results: Interval-detected cancers occurred more in younger women and were of larger tumor size than screen-detected cancers. In unconditional logistic regression models adjusted for age and tumor size, tumors with lobular (odds ratio [OR] = 1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.9-4.2) or mucinous (OR = 5.5; 95% CI = 1.5-19.4) histology, high proliferation (by either mitotic count [OR = 2.9; 95% CI = 1.5-5.7] or Ki-67 antigen expression [OR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.3-4.1]), high histologic grade (OR = 2.1; 95% CI = 1.2-4.0), high nuclear grade (OR = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.0-3.7), or negative estrogen receptor status (OR = 1.8; 95% CI = 1.0-3.1) were more likely to surface in the interval between screening examinations. Tumors with tubular histology (OR = 0.2; 95% CI = 0.0-0.8) or with a high percentage of in situ components (50%) (OR = 0.5; 95% CI = 0.2-1.2) were associated with an increased likelihood of screen detection.

Conclusions: Our data from a large group of women in a defined population indicate that screening mammography may miss tumors of lobular or mucinous histology and some rapidly proliferating, high-grade tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Logistic Models
  • Mammography*
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers