A review of the influence of mammographic density on breast cancer clinical and pathological phenotype

Michael S. Shawky, Cecilia W. Huo, Michael A. Henderson, Andrew Redfern, Kara Britt, Erik W. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: It is well established that high mammographic density (MD), when adjusted for age and body mass index, is one of the strongest known risk factors for breast cancer (BC), and also associates with higher incidence of interval cancers in screening due to the masking of early mammographic abnormalities. Increasing research is being undertaken to determine the underlying histological and biochemical determinants of MD and their consequences for BC pathogenesis, anticipating that improved mechanistic insights may lead to novel preventative or treatment interventions. At the same time, technological advances in digital and contrast mammography are such that the validity of well-established relationships needs to be re-examined in this context. Methods: With attention to old versus new technologies, we conducted a literature review to summarise the relationships between clinicopathologic features of BC and the density of the surrounding breast tissue on mammography, including the associations with BC biological features inclusive of subtype, and implications for the clinical disease course encompassing relapse, progression, treatment response and survival. Results and conclusions: There is reasonable evidence to support positive relationships between high MD (HMD) and tumour size, lymph node positivity and local relapse in the absence of radiotherapy, but not between HMD and LVI, regional relapse or distant metastasis. Conflicting data exist for associations of HMD with tumour location, grade, intrinsic subtype, receptor status, second primary incidence and survival, which need further confirmatory studies. We did not identify any relationships that did not hold up when data involving newer imaging techniques were employed in analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-276
Number of pages26
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'A review of the influence of mammographic density on breast cancer clinical and pathological phenotype'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this