Mammographic breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer but whether breast density is a general marker of susceptibility or is specific to the location of the eventual cancer is unknown. A study of 372 incident breast cancer cases and 713 matched controls was conducted within the Mayo Clinic mammography screening practice. Mammograms on average 7 years before breast cancer were digitized, and quantitative measures of percentage density and dense area from each side and view were estimated. A regional density estimate accounting for overall percentage density was calculated from both mammogram views. Location of breast cancer and potential confounders were abstracted from medical records. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate associations, and C-statistics were used to evaluate the strength of risk prediction. There were increasing trends in breast cancer risk with increasing quartiles of percentage density and dense area, irrespective of the side of the breast with cancer (Ptrends < 0.001). Percentage density from the ipsilateral side [craniocaudal (CC): odds ratios (ORs), 1.0 (ref), 1.7, 3.1, and 3.1; mediolateral oblique (MLO): ORs, 1.0 (ref), 1.5, 2.2, and 2.8] and the contralateral side [CC: ORs, 1.0 (ref), 1.8, 2.2, and 3.7; MLO: ORs, 1.0 (ref), 1.6, 1.9, and 2.5) similarly predicted case-control status (C-statistics, 0.64-65). Accounting for overall percentage density, density in the region where the cancer subsequently developed was not a significant risk factor [CC: 1.0 (ref), 1.3, 1.0, and 1.2; MLO: 1.0 (ref), 1.1, 1.0, and 1.1 for increasing quartiles]. Results did not change when examining mammograms 3 years on average before the cancer. Overall mammographic density seems to represent a general marker of breast cancer risk that is not specific to breast side or location of the eventual cancer.
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