Mammographic density and risk of breast cancer by adiposity: An analysis of four case-control studies

Shannon M. Conroy*, Christy G. Woolcott, Karin R. Koga, Celia Byrne, Chisato Nagata, Giske Ursin, Celine M. Vachon, Martin J. Yaffe, Ian Pagano, Gertraud Maskarinec

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The association of mammographic breast density with breast cancer risk may vary by adiposity. To examine effect modification by body mass index (BMI), the authors standardized mammographic density data from four case-control studies (1994-2002) conducted in California, Hawaii and Minnesota and Gifu, Japan. The 1,699 cases and 2,422 controls included 45% Caucasians, 40% Asians and 9% African-Americans. Using ethnic-specific BMI cut points, 34% were classified as overweight and 19% as obese. A single reader assessed density from mammographic images using a computer-assisted method. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) while adjusting for potential confounders. Modest heterogeneity in the relation between percent density and breast cancer risk across studies was observed (p heterogeneity = 0.08). Cases had a greater age-adjusted mean percent density than controls: 31.7% versus 28.5%, respectively (p <0.001). Relative to <20 percent density, the ORs for >35 were similar across BMI groups whereas the OR for 20-35 was slightly higher in overweight (OR = 1.69, 95% CI: 1.28, 2.24) and obese (OR = 1.62, 95% CI: 1.12, 2.33) than in normal weight women (OR = 1.49, 95% CI: 1.11, 2.01). Furthermore, limited evidence of effect modification by BMI of the OR per 10% increase in percent density (p interaction = 0.06) was observed, including subgroup analyses by menopausal status and in analyses that excluded women at the extremes of the BMI scale. Our findings indicate little, if any, modification by BMI of the effects of breast density on breast cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1915-1924
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • adiposity
  • body mass index
  • breast cancer incidence
  • ethnicity
  • mammographic density
  • risk factor


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