Preliminary results with stereoscopic digital mammography were described at the meeting of the Radiological Society of North America by one of its developers, Dr David J Getty.
The technique involves capturing two images 6 to 10 degrees apart that are cross-polarised and then superimposed, in much the same way as two images are used to create 3-D movies.
"Two-dimensional imaging masks subtle lesions," Dr Getty explained.
"With 3-D mammography, this is greatly reduced. Lesions can be seen as lying at different depths."
In the study, 1,093 women referred for evaluation of suspected breast cancer were each examined with conventional mammography and the stereoscopic digital technique.
There were 259 abnormalities detected with one or both approaches, with 109 true positives and 150 false positives.
Compared with conventional mammography, stereoscopic digital imaging reduced the false-positive rate by 49 per cent.
"A 15 per cent drop would have been a significant reduction, so this is a highly statistically significant finding," Dr Getty said.
"It cuts the false-positive rate in half, resulting in fewer patient recalls, less anxiety and less cost."
Data on approximately 1,500 women is expected to be analysed by the end of the year, at which point the trial will be complete. © 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation