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Int J Cancer. 2011 Jul 15;129(2):440-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25676. Epub 2010 Nov 16.

Associations of overall and abdominal adiposity with area and volumetric mammographic measures among postmenopausal women.

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Perinatal Epidemiology Research Unit, Departments of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Whereas mammographic density and adiposity are positively associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk, they are inversely associated with one another. To examine the association between these two risk factors, a secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial of a year-long aerobic exercise intervention was done. Participants were 302 postmenopausal women aged 50-74 years. Dense fibroglandular and nondense fatty tissue were measured from mammograms using computer-assisted thresholding software for area measurements and a technique relying on the calibration of mammography machines with a tissue-equivalent phantom for volumetric measurements. Adiposity was measured by anthropometry (body mass index, waist circumference), whole-body dual x-ray absorptiometry scans (body fat) and computed tomography scans (abdominal adiposity). Correlations were estimated between and within women, the latter representing the association between the 1-year change in adiposity and mammographic measures. Adiposity was correlated with nondense area and volume (0.50 ≤ r ≤ 0.66 between women; 0.18 ≤ r ≤ 0.46 within women). Between women, adiposity was correlated with dense area and volume (-0.12 ≤ r ≤ -0.30) and with percent dense area and volume (-0.28 ≤ r ≤ -0.48). Because measurements made with scans explained at most only 3% more of the variation in absolute or percent density beyond that explained by anthropometric measurements, anthropometric measurements are likely sufficient for adjustment of the association between mammographic density and breast cancer risk. Adiposity is associated with breast fatty tissue and possibly weakly inversely associated with fibroglandular tissue.

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