Mammographic Density Decline, Tamoxifen Response, and Prognosis by Molecular Characteristics of Estrogen Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer

Mustapha Abubakar, Maeve Mullooly, Sarah Nyante, Ruth M. Pfeiffer, Erin J. Aiello Bowles, Renata Cora, Clara Bodelon, Ebone Butler, Donna Butcher, Lawrence Sternberg, Melissa A. Troester, Sheila Weinmann, Mark Sherman, Andrew G. Glass, Amy Berrington De Gonzalez, Gretchen L. Gierach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mammographic breast density (MBD) decline post-tamoxifen initiation is a favorable prognostic factor in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer (BC) and has potential utility as a biomarker of tamoxifen response. However, the prognostic value of MBD decline may vary by molecular characteristics among ER-positive patients. Methods: We investigated associations between MBD decline (≥10% vs <10%) and breast cancer-specific mortality (BCSM) among ER-positive breast cancer patients aged 36-87 years at diagnosis treated with tamoxifen at Kaiser Permanente Northwest (1990-2008). Patients who died of BC (case patients; n = 62) were compared with those who did not (control patients; n = 215) overall and by tumor molecular characteristics (immunohistochemistry [IHC]-based subtype [luminal A-like: ER-positive/progesterone receptor [PR]-positive/HER2-negative/low Ki67; luminal B-like: ER-positive and 1 or more of PR-negative, HER2-positive, high Ki67] and modified IHC [mIHC]-based recurrence score of ER/PR/Ki67). Percent MBD was measured in the unaffected breast at baseline mammogram (mean = 6 months before tamoxifen initiation) and follow-up (mean = 12 months post-tamoxifen initiation). Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed from logistic regression models. All statistical tests were 2-sided. Results: MBD decline was statistically significantly associated with reduced risk of BCSM overall (OR = 0.38, 95% CI = 0.15 to 0.92). This association was, however, stronger among women with aggressive tumor characteristics including luminal B-like (OR = 0.17, 95% CI = 0.04 to 0.73) vs A-like (OR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.19 to 2.92); large (OR = 0.26, 95% CI = 0.08 to 0.78) vs small (OR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.04 to 3.79) tumors; PR-negative (OR = 0.02, 95% CI = 0.001 to 0.37) vs PR-positive (OR = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.18 to 1.40) disease; and high (OR = 0.25, 95% CI = 0.07 to 0.93) vs low (OR = 0.44, 95% CI = 0.10 to 2.09) mIHC3 score. Conclusion: The findings support MBD decline as a prognostic marker of tamoxifen response among patients with aggressive ER-positive BC phenotypes, for whom understanding treatment effectiveness is critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpkac028
JournalJNCI Cancer Spectrum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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