(HealthDay News) — Women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s commonly lack well-known risk factors for the disease, according to new research that could fuel debate about preventive screening for this age group.

In the new study, researchers evaluated 136 breast cancer patients (aged 40–49 years) diagnosed from 1997–2012 as a result of mammograms. Half of the cancers were invasive, and half early stage and noninvasive. The researchers also looked at the hormone profiles of the cancers.

The researchers found few of the women diagnosed with breast cancer had dense breast tissue and a family history of the disease. “Of the screen-detected cancers, the very strong family history was only present in 12% of the young women,” study coauthor Elissa Price, MD, director of clinical breast imaging operations at the University of California in San Francisco, told HealthDay. And only 14% of those diagnosed with cancer had extremely dense breasts, Price said. Limiting screening to women with these risk factors would reduce the number of screening-detected cancers by more than 75%, she added.

More than 90% of the women had cancers known to be linked to excellent survival rates, Price said, adding that this further supports routine screening of younger women. Price was scheduled to present the findings Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held from November 30 to December 5 in Chicago.

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