The distribution of breast density in women aged 18 years and older

Dilukshi Perera, Sarah Pirikahu, Jane Walter, Gemma Cadby, Ellie Darcey, Rachel Lloyd, Martha Hickey, Christobel Saunders, Michael Hackmann, David D. Sampson, John Shepherd, Lothar Lilge, Jennifer Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Age and body mass index (BMI) are critical considerations when assessing individual breast cancer risk, particularly for women with dense breasts. However, age- and BMI-standardized estimates of breast density are not available for screen-aged women, and little is known about the distribution of breast density in women aged < 40. This cross-sectional study uses three different modalities: optical breast spectroscopy (OBS), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and mammography, to describe the distributions of breast density across categories of age and BMI. Methods: Breast density measures were estimated for 1,961 Australian women aged 18–97 years using OBS (%water and %water + %collagen). Of these, 935 women had DXA measures (percent and absolute fibroglandular dense volume, %FGV and FGV, respectively) and 354 had conventional mammographic measures (percent and absolute dense area). The distributions for each breast density measure were described across categories of age and BMI. Results: The mean age was 38 years (standard deviation = 15). Median breast density measures decreased with age and BMI for all three modalities, except for DXA-FGV, which increased with BMI and decreased after age 30. The variation in breast density measures was largest for younger women and decreased with increasing age and BMI. Conclusion: This unique study describes the distribution of breast density measures for women aged 18–97 using alternative and conventional modalities of measurement. While this study is the largest of its kind, larger sample sizes are needed to provide clinically useful age-standardized measures to identify women with high breast density for their age or BMI.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2024


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