The impact of bariatric surgery on qualitative and quantitative breast density

Breast J. 2019 Nov;25(6):1198-1205. doi: 10.1111/tbj.13430. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


Background: Obesity and breast density are associated with breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Bariatric surgery effectively treats morbid obesity, with sustainable weight loss and reductions in cancer incidence. We evaluated changes in qualitative and quantitative density; hypothesizing breast density would increase following bariatric surgery.

Methods: Women undergoing bariatric surgery from 1990 to 2015 were identified, excluding patients without a mammogram performed both before and after surgery. Changes in body mass index (BMI), time between mammograms and surgery, and American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) scores were assessed. VolparaDensity™ automated software calculated volumetric breast density (VBD), fibroglandular volume (FGV), and total breast volume for the 82 women with digital data available. Differences between pre- and postsurgery values were assessed.

Results: One hundred eighty women were included. Median age at surgery was 50.0 years, with 8.8 months between presurgery mammogram and surgery and 62.3 months between surgery and postsurgery mammogram. Median BMI significantly decreased over the study period (46.0 vs 35.4 kg/m2 ; P < 0.001). No change in BI-RADS scores was seen between the pre- and postsurgery mammograms. Eighty-two women had VolparaDensity™ data available. While VBD increased in these patients, FGV and total breast volume both decreased following bariatric surgery.

Conclusions: Increased VBD, decreased FGV, and decreased total breast volume were seen following bariatric surgery-induced weight loss. There was no difference in qualitative breast density, highlighting the discrepancy between BI-RADS and VolparaDensity™ measurements. Further investigation will be required to determine how differential changes in components of breast density may affect breast cancer risk.

Keywords: bariatric surgery; breast imaging reporting and data system; mammography; morbid obesity; volumetric breast density.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bariatric Surgery* / methods
  • Bariatric Surgery* / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body-Weight Trajectory
  • Breast Density*
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Breast* / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid* / diagnosis
  • Obesity, Morbid* / surgery
  • Organ Size