To determine the relation of mammographic densities to subsequent breast cancer risk, a case-control study was undertaken using prediagnostic mammograms of screening program participants. Mammograms of cases (n = 266) and controls (n = 301) were blindly assessed for mammographic densities, which were measured by planimetry. The odds of breast cancer increased steadily with increasing breast density (test for trend, P less than 0.0001). Breast cancer odds was 1.7 for densities between 5% and 24.9%, 2.5 for 25% through 44.9%, 3.8 for 45% through 64%, and 4.3 for densities of 65% and greater (referent = less than 5% densities). Odds ratios also increased with increasing densities among women with the P2 and DY mammographic patterns. These findings suggest that the percentage of mammographic densities in the breast can predict breast cancer risk more accurately than a qualitative assessment of mammographic patterns.