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High Breast density linked to high risk of breast cancer

By David Liu,  PHD

A new study once again confirms that women with high mammograhic breast density are at high risk for breast cancer and the risk is slightly affected by the status of other risk factors such as family history of breast cancer, menopausal status, and postmenopausal hormone use.

The study led by Lusine Yaghjyan of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri showed women whose breast densities were greater than 50 percent were at least triple as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to those with their densities smaller than 10 percent.

The study included 1381 cases of incident breast cancer diagnosed in the Nurses' Health Study I and II cohorts and 2779 matched controls.

The study also found that the density related risk of breast cancer was similar among women with and without family history. Among women with family history, those who had greater than 50 percent breast density were 4 times as likely to have breast cancer, compared to those having only smaller than 10 percent breast density.  In comparison, those who had no family history, the risk for those with high breast density was 3.7 times as high compared to those with a low breast density.

The association between breast density and breast cancer risk was greater in premenopsaul women than postmenopausal women without using postmenopausal hormones.  With 50 percent breast density, compared to 10 percent or smaller breast density, premenopausal women were at 5.5 times as high risk for breast cancer while postmenopausal women without using postmenopausal hormones were at 3 times as high risk.

Comparing postmenopausal women who were currently using hormones to postmenopausal women who had never used hormones, the risk of breast cancer in those with high density, compared to those with low density, was higher among those who were currently using hormones than those who never used hormones, 4.5 times as high versus 3 times as high. But of postmenopausal women, currently using hormones and past use of hormones had a similar effect on the association between breast density and risk of breast cancer.

The study was published in Cancer Causes and Control.