Mammographic density as a marker of susceptibility to breast cancer: a hypothesis

IARC Sci Publ. 2001;154:163-9.


We propose that radiological features of breast tissue provide an index of cumulative exposure to the current and past hormonal and reproductive events that influence breast cancer incidence. The changes in breast tissue that occur with ageing, and changes in the associated radiological features of the breast, are similar to the concept of "breast tissue ageing" proposed by Pike, and may explain features of the age-specific incidence of breast cancer, both within the population and between populations. These radiological features can be observed and measured, can be related directly to risk of breast cancer, and are likely to be of value in research into the etiology of breast cancer. Identification of the sources of variation in this radiological characteristic of the breast is likely to lead to a better understanding of the factors that cause breast cancer and to new approaches to prevention of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Disease Susceptibility / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Middle Aged