Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 24, Issue 11, pp 1973–1983

Menstrual and reproductive characteristics and breast density in young women

  • Joanne F. Dorgan
  • Catherine Klifa
  • Snehal Deshmukh
  • Brian L. Egleston
  • John A. Shepherd
  • Peter O. KwiterovichJr.
  • Linda Van Horn
  • Linda G. Snetselaar
  • Victor J. Stevens
  • Alan M. Robson
  • Norman L. Lasser
  • Nola M. Hylton
Original Paper



Breast density is strongly related to breast cancer risk, but determinants of breast density in young women remain largely unknown.


Associations of reproductive and menstrual characteristics with breast density measured by magnetic resonance imaging were evaluated in a cross-sectional study of 176 healthy women, 25–29 years old, using linear mixed effects models.


Parity was significantly inversely associated with breast density. In multivariable adjusted models that included non-reproductive variables, mean percent dense breast volume (%DBV) decreased from 20.5 % in nulliparous women to 16.0 % in parous women, while mean absolute dense breast volume (ADBV) decreased from 85.3 to 62.5 cm3. Breast density also was significantly inversely associated with the age women started using hormonal contraceptives, whereas it was significantly positively associated with duration of hormonal contraceptive use. In adjusted models, mean %DBV decreased from 21.7 % in women who started using hormones at 12–17 years of age to 14.7 % in those who started using hormones at 22–28 years of age, while mean ADBV decreased from 86.2 to 53.7 cm3. The age at which women started using hormonal contraceptives and duration of hormone use were inversely correlated, and mean %DBV increased from 15.8 % in women who used hormones for not more than 2.0 years to 22.0 % in women who used hormones for more than 8 years, while mean ADBV increased from 61.9 to 90.4 cm3 over this interval.


Breast density in young women is inversely associated with parity and the age women started using hormonal contraceptives but positively associated with duration of hormone use.


Breast density Parity Breast feeding Hormonal contraceptives Menarche Menstrual cycle 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne F. Dorgan
    • 1
  • Catherine Klifa
    • 2
  • Snehal Deshmukh
    • 3
  • Brian L. Egleston
    • 3
  • John A. Shepherd
    • 4
  • Peter O. KwiterovichJr.
    • 5
  • Linda Van Horn
    • 6
  • Linda G. Snetselaar
    • 7
  • Victor J. Stevens
    • 8
  • Alan M. Robson
    • 9
  • Norman L. Lasser
    • 10
  • Nola M. Hylton
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Dangeard GroupSunnyvaleUSA
  3. 3.Fox Chase Cancer CenterPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.University of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.Johns Hopkins HospitalBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.Northwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  7. 7.University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  8. 8.Kaiser Permanente Center for Health ResearchPortlandUSA
  9. 9.Children’s HospitalNew OrleansUSA
  10. 10.New Jersey Medical SchoolNewarkUSA

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