Mammographic parenchymal patterns are related to breast cancer risk and are also affected by anthropometric measure. We carried out a case-control study comprising 200 cases with high-risk (P2 and DY) mammographic parenchymal pattern and 200 controls with low-risk (N1 and P1) patterns in order to investigate the effect of body size and shape and breast size on mammographic patterns. Women in the highest quartile of body mass index (BMI) distribution were significantly less likely to have a high-risk pattern (odds ratio (OR) = 0.21, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.08-0.52, P-value for trend = 0.001) compared to those in the lowest quartile. Relative to women with a waist to hip ratio (WHR) of less than 0.75, the OR of having a high-risk pattern in women with a WHR greater than 0.80 was 0.30 (95% CI 0.14-0.63). Breast size as measured by cup size was significantly and negatively related to high-risk pattern. Our study indicates that both BMI and WHR are negatively associated with high-risk patterns. However, both phenomena are associated with increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. This negative confounding of two positive risk factors means that the effect of parenchymal patterns on risk will tend to be underestimated when not adjusted for BMI and WHR and vice versa. Thus we may have underestimated the importance of BMI and mammographic parenchymal patterns in the past. Further studies are needed to determine a measure of parenchymal density that is independent of anthropometric measures and breast size.