European Radiology

, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 2308–2316 | Cite as

Association between breast cancer, breast density, and body adiposity evaluated by MRI

  • Wenlian Zhu
  • Peng Huang
  • Katarzyna J. Macura
  • Dmitri Artemov



Despite the lack of reliable methods with which to measure breast density from 2D mammograms, numerous studies have demonstrated a positive association between breast cancer and breast density. The goal of this study was to study the association between breast cancer and body adiposity, as well as breast density quantitatively assessed from 3D MRI breast images.


Breast density was calculated from 3D T1-weighted MRI images. The thickness of the upper abdominal adipose layer was used as a surrogate marker for body adiposity. We evaluated the correlation between breast density, age, body adiposity, and breast cancer.


Breast density was calculated for 410 patients with unilateral invasive breast cancer, 73 patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and 361 controls without breast cancer. Breast density was inversely related to age and the thickness of the upper abdominal adipose layer. Breast cancer was only positively associated with body adiposity and age.


Age and body adiposity are predictive of breast density. Breast cancer was not associated with breast density; however, it was associated with the thickness of the upper abdominal adipose layer, a surrogate marker for body adiposity. Our results based on a limited number of patients warrant further investigations.

Key points

MRI breast density is negatively associated with body adiposity.

MRI breast density is negatively associated with age.

Breast cancer is positively associated with body adiposity.

Breast Cancer is not associated with MRI breast density.


Magnetic resonance imaging Breast cancer Breast density Adiposity Age 



Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System






breast density


invasive breast cancer


ductal carcinoma in situ


no breast cancer diagnosed


upper abdominal adipose layer


the thickness of the upper abdominal adipose layer


body mass index



We thank Dr. Vered Stearns for helpful discussions. We are grateful to Ms. Mary McAllister for editorial help with this manuscript. The scientific guarantor of this publication is Wenlian Zhu. The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies, whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article. This study has received funding by the National Cancer Institutes CA154738. Peng Huang kindly provided statistical advice for this manuscript. One of the authors has significant statistical expertise. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. Written informed consent was waived by the Institutional Review Board. No study subjects or cohorts have been previously reported. Methodology: retrospective, cross sectional, performed at one institution.


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wenlian Zhu
    • 1
  • Peng Huang
    • 2
  • Katarzyna J. Macura
    • 3
    • 4
  • Dmitri Artemov
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Cancer Imaging Research, Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oncology, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Division, School of Medicine; Department of Biostatistics, Bloomberg School of Public HealthJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer CenterJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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