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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Nov;136(1):277-87. doi: 10.1007/s10549-012-2240-0. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Urinary estrogens and estrogen metabolites and mammographic density in premenopausal women.

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Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Mammographic density is a strong and independent risk factor for breast cancer and is considered an intermediate marker of risk. The major predictors of premenopausal mammographic density, however, have yet to be fully elucidated. To test the hypothesis that urinary estrogen metabolism profiles are associated with mammographic density, we conducted a cross-sectional study among 352 premenopausal women in the Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII). We measured average percent mammographic density using a computer-assisted method. In addition, we assayed 15 estrogens and estrogen metabolites (jointly termed EM) in luteal-phase urine samples. We used multivariable linear regression to quantify the association of average percent density with quartiles of each individual EM as well as the sum of all EM (total EM), EM groups defined by metabolic pathway, and pathway ratios. In multivariable models controlling for body mass index and other predictors of breast density, women in the top quartile of total EM had an average percent density 3.4 percentage points higher than women in the bottom quartile (95 % confidence interval: -1.1, 8.0; p trend = 0.08). A non-significant positive association was noted for the 2-hydroxylation pathway catechols (breast density was 4.0 percentage points higher in top vs. bottom quartile; p trend = 0.06). In general, we observed no associations with parent estrogens or the 4- or 16-hydroxylation pathways or pathway ratios. These results suggest that urinary luteal estrogen profiles are not strongly associated with premenopausal mammographic density. If these profiles are associated with breast cancer risk, they may not act through influences on breast density.

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