Mammographic density and the risk of breast cancer recurrence after breast-conserving surgery

Cancer. 2009 Dec 15;115(24):5780-7. doi: 10.1002/cncr.24638.


Background: Women with invasive breast cancer who are treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiotherapy face a cumulative risk of local disease recurrence of approximately 10% at 10 years. To the authors' knowledge, the role of mammographic density as a risk factor for the development of local recurrence has not been thoroughly evaluated to date.

Methods: Medical records were reviewed for 335 patients who underwent breast-conserving surgery for invasive breast cancer and for whom a pretreatment mammogram was available. Information was recorded concerning mammographic density as well as tumor features, patient characteristics, and adjuvant treatments received. Patients were categorized for mammographic density based on the Wolfe classification as either low (<25% density), intermediate (25-50% density), or high (>50% density). A multivariate survival analysis was conducted using the Cox proportional hazards model with local disease recurrence as the primary endpoint.

Results: Patients in the high mammographic density group experienced a much greater risk of local disease recurrence compared with women with the least dense breasts (10-year actuarial risks: 21% vs 5%; hazards ratio [HR], 5.7 [95% confidence interval, 1.6-20; P=.006]). The difference in the rates of disease recurrence at 10 years was pronounced for women who did not receive radiotherapy (40% vs 0% for patients with >50% density and <25% density, respectively; P<.0001).

Conclusions: Mammographic breast density is an important risk factor for local breast cancer recurrence among women not receiving breast irradiation. Mammographic density should be taken into consideration when stratifying patients for clinical trials of partial breast radiotherapy. If confirmed, mammographic density might be used to help determine which patients might benefit from radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography*
  • Mastectomy, Segmental*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors