Cyclical mastalgia: prevalence and associated health and behavioral factors

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2001 Jun;22(2):71-6. doi: 10.3109/01674820109049956.


Perimenstrual breast pain (cyclical mastalgia) is a common problem that can be sufficiently severe to interfere with usual activities, and has been associated with elevated mammography usage in young women. This study was undertaken to replicate clinic-based research on cyclical mastalgia, and to examine the association between this disorder and health-related behaviors and perceived stress. Using random digit dialing throughout Virginia, 874 women aged 18-44 were interviewed. Sixty-eight per cent of women experienced cyclical breast symptoms; 22% experienced moderate to extreme discomfort (classified as cyclical mastalgia). Hormonal contraceptive usage was associated with significantly less mastalgia and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Smoking, caffeine consumption and perceived stress were associated with mastalgia (odds ratios = 1.52, 1.53 and 1.7, respectively). Young women (under 35 years) with mastalgia were more likely to have had a mammogram (20.2%) than those without mastalgia (9.9%). Most women with this disorder (77.5%) did not have PMS. The prevalence of cyclical mastalgia and its association with mammography replicate clinic-based findings. Associations with smoking and stress had not previously been reported. Prospective research is needed to determine the biopsychosocial factors contributing to this disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / complications