Body mass index, mammographic density, and breast cancer risk by estrogen receptor subtype

Yiwey Shieh, Christopher G. Scott, Matthew R. Jensen, Aaron D. Norman, Kimberly A. Bertrand, V. Shane Pankratz, Kathleen R. Brandt, Daniel W. Visscher, John A. Shepherd, Rulla M. Tamimi, Celine M. Vachon, Karla Kerlikowske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Obesity and elevated breast density are common risk factors for breast cancer, and their effects may vary by estrogen receptor (ER) subtype. However, their joint effects on ER subtype-specific risk are unknown. Understanding this relationship could enhance risk stratification for screening and prevention. Thus, we assessed the association between breast density and ER subtype according to body mass index (BMI) and menopausal status. Methods: We conducted a case-control study nested within two mammography screening cohorts, the Mayo Mammography Health Study and the San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer SPORE/San Francisco Mammography Registry. Our pooled analysis contained 1538 ER-positive and 285 ER-negative invasive breast cancer cases and 4720 controls matched on age, menopausal status at time of mammogram, and year of mammogram. Percent density was measured on digitized film mammograms using computer-assisted techniques. We used polytomous logistic regression to evaluate the association between percent density and ER subtype by BMI subgroup (normal/underweight, < 25 kg/m 2 versus overweight/obese, ≥ 25 kg/m 2 ). We used Wald chi-squared tests to assess for interactions between percent density and BMI. Our analysis was stratified by menopausal status and hormone therapy usage at the time of index mammogram. Results: Percent density was associated with increased risk of overall breast cancer regardless of menopausal status or BMI. However, when analyzing breast cancer across ER subtype, we found a statistically significant (p = 0.008) interaction between percent density and BMI in premenopausal women only. Specifically, elevated percent density was associated with a higher risk of ER-negative than ER-positive cancer in overweight/obese premenopausal women [OR per standard deviation increment 2.17 (95% CI 1.50-3.16) vs 1.33 (95% CI 1.11-1.61) respectively, P heterogeneity = 0.01]. In postmenopausal women, elevated percent density was associated with similar risk of ER-positive and ER-negative cancers, and no substantive differences were seen after accounting for BMI or hormone therapy usage. Conclusions: The combination of overweight/obesity and elevated breast density in premenopausal women is associated with a higher risk of ER-negative compared with ER-positive cancer. Eighteen percent of premenopausal women in the USA have elevated BMI and breast density and may benefit from lifestyle modifications involving weight loss and exercise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number48
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Epidemiology
  • Mammographic breast density
  • Prevention
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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