Mammographic density, parity and age at first birth, and risk of breast cancer: An analysis of four case-control studies

Christy G. Woolcott, Karin Koga, Shannon M. Conroy, Celia Byrne, Chisato Nagata, Giske Ursin, Celine M. Vachon, Martin J. Yaffe, Ian Pagano, Gertraud Maskarinec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Mammographic density is strongly and consistently associated with breast cancer risk. To determine if this association was modified by reproductive factors (parity and age at first birth), data were combined from four case-control studies conducted in the United States and Japan. To overcome the issue of variation in mammographic density assessment among the studies, a single observer re-read all the mammograms using one type of interactive thresholding software. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) while adjusting for other known breast cancer risk factors. Included were 1,699 breast cancer cases and 2,422 controls, 74% of whom were postmenopausal. A positive association between mammographic density and breast cancer risk was evident in every group defined by parity and age at first birth (OR per doubling of percent mammographic density ranged between 1.20 and 1.39). Nonetheless, the association appeared to be stronger among nulliparous than parous women (OR per doublingofpercent mammographic density = 1.39 vs. 1.24; P interaction = 0.054). However, when examined by study location, the effect modification by parity was apparent only in women from Hawaii and when examined by menopausal status, it was apparent in postmenopausal, but not premenopausal, women. Effect modification by parity was not significant in subgroups defined by body mass index or ethnicity. Adjusting for mammographic density did not attenuate the OR for the association between parity and breast cancer risk by more than 16.4%, suggesting that mammographic density explains only a small proportion of the reduction in breast cancer risk associated with parity. In conclusion, this study did not support the hypothesis that parity modifies the breast cancer risk attributed to mammographic density. Even though an effect modification was found in Hawaiian women, no such thing was found in women from the other three locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1171
Number of pages9
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Effect modification
  • Epidemiology
  • Mammographic density
  • Reproductive factors
  • Risk factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Mammographic density, parity and age at first birth, and risk of breast cancer: An analysis of four case-control studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this