Mammographic parenchymal patterns and quantitative evaluation of mammographic densities: a case-control study

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1987 Jun;148(6):1087-92. doi: 10.2214/ajr.148.6.1087.


The classification of breast parenchymal patterns (N1, P1, P2, DY) and the percentage of the breast containing radiographic densities are two highly correlated radiographic measures proposed as predictors of the risk of breast cancer. In this case-control study, 160 cases of breast cancer and 160 matched controls from a mammography referral practice were compared to determine the risk of breast cancer associated with each of these two radiographic measures. The mammographic densities were quantified on caudal projections by means of a compensating polar planimeter. A relative risk estimate of 3.3 (p less than .05) was associated with the P2 + DY patterns compared with the N1 + P1 patterns. Significantly elevated risks of 4.3 to 5.5 also were observed among women whose breasts contained at least 25% mammographic densities, compared with women with less than 25% involvement. These radiographic measures tended to be more predictive of the risk of breast cancer in black women than in white women. Although the precise clinical roles of breast parenchymal patterns and densities have not been defined fully, the results of this study suggest that they are useful in the recognition of women at high risk of breast cancer. We make no claims that the findings of this study are sufficiently developed to be used as a basis for screening strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk