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Cancer Epidemiol. 2017 Aug;49:156-160. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2017.07.003. Epub 2017 Jul 8.

Tumor characteristics and family history in relation to mammographic density and breast cancer: The French E3N cohort.

Author information

University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu, HI, 9613, USA. Electronic address:
CESP Inserm, Villejuif, France.
Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, F-94805, France.
Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
CESP Inserm, Villejuif, France; Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Italy.



Mammographic density is a known heritable risk factor for breast cancer, but reports how tumor characteristics and family history may modify this association are inconsistent.


Dense and total breast areas were assessed using Cumulus™ from pre-diagnostic mammograms for 820 invasive breast cancer cases and 820 matched controls nested within the French E3N cohort study. To allow comparisons across models, percent mammographic density (PMD) was standardized to the distribution of the controls. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of breast cancer risk for mammographic density were estimated by conditional logistic regression while adjusting for age and body mass index. Heterogeneity according to tumor characteristic and family history was assessed using stratified analyses.


Overall, the OR per 1 SD for PMD was 1.50 (95% CI, 1.33-1.69). No evidence for significant heterogeneity by tumor size, lymph node status, grade, and hormone receptor status (estrogen, progesterone, and HER2) was detected. However, the association of PMD was stronger for women reporting a family history of breast cancer (OR1SD=2.25; 95% CI, 1.67-3.04) than in women reporting none (OR1SD=1.41; 95% CI, 1.24-1.60; pheterogeneity=0.002). Similarly, effect modification by FHBC was observed using categories of PMD (pheterogeneity=0.02) with respective ORs of 15.16 (95% CI, 4.23-54.28) vs. 3.14 (95% CI, 1.89-5.22) for ≥50% vs. <10% PMD.


The stronger association between mammographic density and breast cancer risk with a family history supports the hypothesis of shared genetic factors responsible for familial aggregation of breast cancer and the heritable component of mammographic density.


Breast cancer; Family history; Mammographic density; Prospective study; Risk

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