A Review of the Role of Breast Arterial Calcification for Cardiovascular Risk Stratification in Women

Circulation. 2019 Feb 19;139(8):1094-1101. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.038092.


Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death among women in the United States. One of the barriers to improving cardiovascular disease outcomes in women is the lack of reliable, effective screening modalities. Breast arterial calcification has emerged as a potential risk stratification tool. Localized deposition in the media of the artery, known as Mönckeberg medial calcific sclerosis, is notably different from the intimal atherosclerotic process commonly associated with coronary artery disease. Nonetheless, studies favor a correlation between breast arterial calcification and cardiovascular risk factors or coronary artery disease, defined as coronary artery calcification on computed tomography scan or both nonobstructive and obstructive lesions on angiography. Since a majority of women over the age of 40 undergo yearly breast cancer screening with mammography, measurement of breast arterial calcification may offer a personalized, noninvasive approach to risk-stratify women for cardiovascular disease at no additional cost or radiation. Mammography has the potential to alter the course of the leading cause of death in women, heart disease, through the evaluation of breast arterial calcification and identification of opportunities for prevention. Current evidence supports the universal reporting of breast arterial calcifications and personalized patient-provider discussions to more aggressively treat cardiac risk factors through targeted medical therapies or healthy lifestyle changes.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; coronary calcification; imaging; prevention; women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast / blood supply*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Incidental Findings
  • Male
  • Mammography
  • Monckeberg Medial Calcific Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Monckeberg Medial Calcific Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Monckeberg Medial Calcific Sclerosis / mortality
  • Monckeberg Medial Calcific Sclerosis / therapy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors