Mammographic density and breast cancer risk in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers

Cancer Res. 2006 Feb 1;66(3):1866-72. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-05-3368.


High breast density as measured on mammograms is a strong risk factor for breast cancer in the general population, but its effect in carriers of germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations is unclear. We obtained mammograms from 206 female carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, 96 of whom were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer and 136 relatives of carriers who were themselves noncarriers. We compared the mammographic densities of affected carriers (cases) and unaffected carriers (controls), and of mutation carriers and noncarriers, using a computer-assisted method of measurement and visual assessment by two observers. Analyses were adjusted for age, parity, body mass index, menopausal status, and hormone replacement therapy use. There was no difference in the mean percent density between noncarriers and carriers. Among carriers, increasing mammographic density was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (P(trend) = 0.024). The odds ratio (OR; 95% confidence interval) for breast cancer associated with a density of > or =50% was 2.29 (1.23-4.26; P = 0.009). The OR did not differ between BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers or between premenopausal and postmenopausal carriers. The results suggest that the distribution of breast density in BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers is similar to that in non-carriers. High breast density in carriers is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, with the relative risk being similar to that observed in the general population. Use of mammographic density could improve individual risk prediction in carriers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast / anatomy & histology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Germ-Line Mutation*
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged