The Association Between Breast Density and Gut Microbiota Composition at 2 Years Post-Menarche: A Cross-Sectional Study of Adolescents in Santiago, Chile

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 Dec 17;11:794610. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2021.794610. eCollection 2021.


The gut microbiome has been linked to breast cancer via immune, inflammatory, and hormonal mechanisms. We examined the relation between adolescent breast density and gut microbial composition and function in a cohort of Chilean girls. This cross-sectional study included 218 female participants in the Growth and Obesity Cohort Study who were 2 years post-menarche. We measured absolute breast fibroglandular volume (aFGV) and derived percent FGV (%FGV) using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. All participants provided a fecal sample. The gut microbiome was characterized using 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing of the V3-V4 hypervariable region. We examined alpha diversity and beta diversity across terciles of %FGV and aFGV. We used MaAsLin2 for multivariable general linear modeling to assess differential taxa and predicted metabolic pathway abundance (MetaCyc) between %FGV and aFGV terciles. All models were adjusted for potential confounding variables and corrected for multiple comparisons. The mean %FGV and aFGV was 49.5% and 217.0 cm3, respectively, among study participants. Similar median alpha diversity levels were found across %FGV and aFGV terciles when measured by the Shannon diversity index (%FGV T1: 4.0, T2: 3.9, T3: 4.1; aFGV T1: 4.0, T2: 4.0, T3: 4.1). %FGV was associated with differences in beta diversity (R2 = 0.012, p=0.02). No genera were differentially abundant when comparing %FGV nor aFGV terciles after adjusting for potential confounders (q > 0.56 for all genera). We found no associations between predicted MetaCyc pathway abundance and %FGV and aFGV. Overall, breast density measured at 2 years post-menarche was not associated with composition and predicted function of the gut microbiome among adolescent Chilean girls.

Keywords: 16s rRNA; adolescence; breast cancer; breast density; epidemiology; gut microbiota; human.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Breast Density
  • Chile
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S