Relationship between mammographic and histological risk factors for breast cancer

N. F. Boyd, Hanne M Jensen, G. Cooke, H. Lee Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Background: Information on breast cancer risk can be obtained both from the histological appearance of the breast epithelium in biopsy specimens and from the pattern of parenchymal densities in the breast revealed by mammography. It is not understood, however, how parenchymal densities influence breast cancer risk or whether these densities are associated with histological risk factors. Purpose: We have estimated, in a large cohort of women, the relative risk of detecting carcinoma in situ, atypical hyperplasia, hyperplasia without atypia, or nonproliferative disease in biopsy specimens from women with different extents of mammographic density. We also examined the association between these histological classifications and radiological features present specifically at the biopsy site. Methods: The source of study material was a population of women aged 40-49 years who were enrolled in the Canadian National Breast Screening Study (NBSS). Mammograms from women who had undergone a biopsy (n = 441) and from a comparison group of women (n = 501) randomly selected from the mammography arm of the NBSS were classified according to the extent of mammographic density. The corresponding histological slides were independently classified by a review pathologist. Results: Compared with women showing no mammographic densities, women with the most extensive densities (i.e., occupying >75% of the breast volume) had a 9.7 times greater risk of developing carcinoma in situ or atypical hyperplasia (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.75-53.97), a 12.2 times greater risk of developing hyperplasia without atypia (95% CI = 2.97-50.14), and a 3.1 times greater risk of developing non-proliferative disease (95% CI = 1.20-8.11). The gradients in risk were not monotonie across the five classifications of mammographic density. The associations could not be explained by the presence of mammographie densities at the biopsy site, but calcification at the biopsy site was strongly associated with high-risk histological changes (relative risk = 24; 95% CI = 5.0-156.0). Conclusions: These results suggest that the radiological patterns referred to as mammographic dysplasia may influence breast cancer risk by virtue of their association with high-risk histological changes in the breast epithelium. Implications: Identification of the factors responsible for high-risk histological changes may offer new insights into the etiology of breast cancer and potentially lead to the development of methods for its prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1170-1179
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 5 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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