Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 181–189 | Cite as

Mammographic breast density and breast cancer risk: interactions of percent density, absolute dense, and non-dense areas with breast cancer risk factors

  • Lusine Yaghjyan
  • Graham A. Colditz
  • Bernard Rosner
  • Rulla M. TamimiEmail author


We investigated if associations of breast density and breast cancer differ according to the level of other known breast cancer risk factors, including body mass index (BMI), age at menarche, parity, age at first child’s birth, age at menopause, alcohol consumption, a family history of breast cancer, a history of benign breast disease, and physical activity. This study included 1,044 postmenopausal incident breast cancer cases diagnosed within the Nurses’ Health Study cohort and 1,794 matched controls. Percent breast density, absolute dense, and non-dense areas were measured from digitized film images with computerized techniques. Information on breast cancer risk factors was obtained prospectively from biennial questionnaires. Percent breast density was more strongly associated with breast cancer risk in current postmenopausal hormone users (≥50 vs. 10 %: OR 5.34, 95 % CI 3.36–8.49) as compared to women with past (OR 2.69, 95 % CI 1.32–5.49) or no hormone history (OR 2.57, 95 % CI 1.18–5.60, p-interaction = 0.03). Non-dense area was inversely associated with breast cancer risk in parous women, but not in women without children (p-interaction = 0.03). Associations of density with breast cancer risk did not differ by the levels of BMI, age at menarche, parity, age at first child’s birth, age at menopause, alcohol consumption, a family history of breast cancer, a history of benign breast disease, and physical activity. Women with dense breasts, who currently use menopausal hormone therapy are at a particularly high risk of breast cancer. Most breast cancer risk factors do not modify the association between mammographic breast density and breast cancer risk.


Breast density Breast cancer risk Risk factors Parity Menopausal hormone use Interactions 



We would like to thank the participants and staff of the Nurses’ Health Study for their valuable contributions as well as the following state cancer registries for their help: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WY. The authors assume full responsibility for analyses and interpretation of these data. Financial support was received from Public Health Service Grants CA131332, CA186107, CA087969, CA186107, UM1 from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Avon Foundation for Women, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, and Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Colditz is supported in part by an American Cancer Society Cissy Hornung Clinical Research Professorship.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 24 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lusine Yaghjyan
    • 1
  • Graham A. Colditz
    • 2
    • 3
  • Bernard Rosner
    • 4
  • Rulla M. Tamimi
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of MedicineUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of SurgeryWashington University in St. Louis School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Public HealthWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  4. 4.Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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