Adjusting for BMI in analyses of volumetric mammographic density and breast cancer risk

Sue Hudson (Lead / Corresponding author), Kirsti Vik Hjerkind, Sarah Vinnicombe, Steve Allen, Cassia B. Trewin, Giske Ursin, Isabel dos Santos Silva, Bianca L. De Stavola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Fully automated assessment of mammographic density (MD), a biomarker of breast cancer risk, is being increasingly performed in screening settings. However, data on body mass index (BMI), a confounder of the MD-risk association, are not routinely collected at screening. We investigated whether the amount of fat in the breast, as captured by the amount of mammographic non-dense tissue seen on the mammographic image, can be used as a proxy for BMI when data on the latter are unavailable.

Methods: Data from a UK case control study (numbers of cases/controls: 414/685) and a Norwegian cohort study (numbers of cases/non-cases: 657/61059), both with volumetric MD measurements (dense volume (DV), non-dense volume (NDV) and percent density (%MD)) from screening-age women, were analysed. BMI (self-reported) and NDV were taken as measures of adiposity. Correlations between BMI and NDV, %MD and DV were examined after log-transformation and adjustment for age, menopausal status and parity. Logistic regression models were fitted to the UK study, and Cox regression models to the Norwegian study, to assess associations between MD and breast cancer risk, expressed as odds/hazard ratios per adjusted standard deviation (OPERA). Adjustments were first made for standard risk factors except BMI (minimally adjusted models) and then also for BMI or NDV. OPERA pooled relative risks (RRs) were estimated by fixed-effect models, and between-study heterogeneity was assessed by the I 2 statistics.

Results: BMI was positively correlated with NDV (adjusted r = 0.74 in the UK study and r = 0.72 in the Norwegian study) and with DV (r = 0.33 and r = 0.25, respectively). Both %MD and DV were positively associated with breast cancer risk in minimally adjusted models (pooled OPERA RR (95% confidence interval): 1.34 (1.25, 1.43) and 1.46 (1.36, 1.56), respectively; I 2 = 0%, P >0.48 for both). Further adjustment for BMI or NDV strengthened the %MD-risk association (1.51 (1.41, 1.61); I 2 = 0%, P = 0.33 and 1.51 (1.41, 1.61); I 2 = 0%, P = 0.32, respectively). Adjusting for BMI or NDV marginally affected the magnitude of the DV-risk association (1.44 (1.34, 1.54); I 2 = 0%, P = 0.87 and 1.49 (1.40, 1.60); I 2 = 0%, P = 0.36, respectively).

Conclusions: When volumetric MD-breast cancer risk associations are investigated, NDV can be used as a measure of adiposity when BMI data are unavailable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2018


  • BMI
  • Breast cancer
  • Breast density
  • Mammographic density


Dive into the research topics of 'Adjusting for BMI in analyses of volumetric mammographic density and breast cancer risk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this