Breast cancer risk factors in relation to breast density (United States)

Cancer Causes Control. 2006 Dec;17(10):1281-90. doi: 10.1007/s10552-006-0071-1.


Objectives: Evaluate known breast cancer risk factors in relation to breast density.

Methods: We examined factors in relation to breast density in 144,018 New Hampshire (NH) women with at least one mammogram recorded in a statewide mammography registry. Mammographic breast density was measured by radiologists using the BI-RADS classification; risk factors of interest were obtained from patient intake forms and questionnaires.

Results: Initial analyses showed a strong inverse influence of age and body mass index (BMI) on breast density. In addition, women with late age at menarche, late age at first birth, premenopausal women, and those currently using hormone therapy (HT) tended to have higher breast density, while those with greater parity tended to have less dense breasts. Analyses stratified on age and BMI suggested interactions, which were formally assessed in a multivariable model. The impact of current HT use, relative to nonuse, differed across age groups, with an inverse association in younger women, and a positive association in older women (p < 0.0001 for the interaction). The positive effects of age at menarche and age at first birth, and the inverse influence of parity were less apparent in women with low BMI than in those with high BMI (p = 0.04, p < 0.0001 and p = 0.01, respectively, for the interactions). We also noted stronger positive effects for age at first birth in postmenopausal women (p = 0.004 for the interaction). The multivariable model indicated a slight positive influence of family history of breast cancer.

Conclusions: The influence of age at menarche and reproductive factors on breast density is less evident in women with high BMI. Density is reduced in young women using HT, but increased in HT users of age 50 or more.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast / cytology
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast / physiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parity / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology
  • United States