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NPJ Breast Cancer. 2018 Feb 6;4:3. doi: 10.1038/s41523-018-0055-9. eCollection 2018.

Breast cancer risk factors and mammographic density among high-risk women in urban China.

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1Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20850 USA.
2National Cancer Center/Cancer Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100021 China.
3Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, China Medical University, Beijing, China.
Contributed equally


Elevated mammographic density (MD) is an established breast cancer risk factor. Studies examining relationships between MD and breast cancer risk factors are limited in China, where established breast cancer risk factors are less prevalent but dense breasts are more prevalent than Western countries. This study included 11,478 women (45-69 years; 36% premenopausal) participating in an ongoing national cancer screening program in 11 urban provinces in China and predicted as having high-risk for breast cancer. Polytomous logistic regression was performed to assess associations between MD and risk factors by comparing each higher Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) category (2, 3, or 4) to the lowest category (BI-RADS, 1). We found associations of increasing age, body mass index, weight, postmenopausal status, and parity with lower MD. Higher levels of education, increasing height, and later first birth were associated with higher MD. These associations did not vary by menopausal status. Additionally, the association between longer period of breastfeeding and lower MD was seen among postmenopausal women only (Pinteraction = 0.003). Having first-degree relatives with breast cancer diagnosed before 50 years was associated with lower MD only among premenopausal women (Pinteraction = 0.061). We found effects of established breast cancer risk factors on MD showed similar directions in Chinese and Western women, supporting the hypothesis that MD represents cumulative exposure to breast cancer risk factors over the life course. Our findings help to understand the biological basis of the association of MD with breast cancer risk and have implications for breast cancer prevention research in China.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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