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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Oct 14;100(21):12349-54. Epub 2003 Sep 26.

Interpreting hemoglobin and water concentration, oxygen saturation, and scattering measured in vivo by near-infrared breast tomography.

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  • 1Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


Near-infrared spectroscopic tomography was used to measure the properties of 24 mammographically normal breasts to quantify whole-breast absorption and scattering spectra and to evaluate which tissue composition characteristics can be determined from these spectra. The absorption spectrum of breast tissue allows quantification of (i) total hemoglobin concentration, (ii) hemoglobin oxygen saturation, and (iii) water concentration, whereas the scattering spectrum provides information about the size and number density of cellular components and structural matrix elements. These property data were tested for correlation to demographic information, including subject age, body mass index, breast size, and radiographic density. Total hemoglobin concentration correlated inversely to body mass index, likely because lower body mass indicates proportionately less fat and more glandular tissue, and glandular tissue contains greater vascularity, hence, more total hemoglobin. Optical scattering was correlated to breast diameter, subject age, and radiographic density. In the radiographic density, fatty breasts had low scattering power and extremely dense breasts had higher values. This observation is consistent with low attenuation of conventional x-rays with fat and higher attenuation in glandular tissues. Optically, fatty tissues have large scatterers leading to a low scattering power, whereas glandular or fibrous tissues have more cellular and collagen-based structures that lead to high scattering power. The study presents correlative data supporting the hypothesis that optical measurements of absorption and scattering can provide physiologically relevant information about breast tissue composition. These breast constituents vary significantly between individuals and can be altered because of changes in breast physiology or pathological state.

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