The effect of volumetric breast density on the risk of screen-detected and interval breast cancers: a cohort study

J.O. Wanders, K. Holland, N. Karssemeijer, P.H. Peeters, W.B. Veldhuis, R.M. Mann and C.H. van Gils

Breast Cancer Research 2017;19(1):67



Background In the light of the breast density legislation in the USA, it is important to know a woman's breast cancer risk, but particularly her risk of a tumor that is not detected through mammographic screening (interval cancer). Therefore, we examined the associations of automatically measured volumetric breast density with screen-detected and interval cancer risk, separately. Methods Volumetric breast measures were assessed automatically using Volpara version 1.5.0 (Matakina, New Zealand) for the first available digital mammography (DM) examination of 52,814 women (age 50-75 years) participating in the Dutch biennial breast cancer screening program between 2003 and 2011. Breast cancer information was obtained from the screening registration system and through linkage with the Netherlands Cancer Registry. We excluded all screen-detected breast cancers diagnosed as a result of the first digital screening examination. During a median follow-up period of 4.2 (IQR 2.0-6.2) years, 523 women were diagnosed with breast cancer of which 299 were screen-detected and 224 were interval breast cancers. The associations between volumetric breast measures and breast cancer risk were determined using Cox proportional hazards analyses. Results Percentage dense volume was found to be positively associated with both interval and screen-detected breast cancers (hazard ratio (HR) 8.37 (95% CI 4.34-16.17) and HR 1.39 (95% CI 0.82-2.36), respectively, for Volpara density grade category (VDG) 4 compared to VDG1 (p for heterogeneity < 0.001)). Dense volume (DV) was also found to be positively associated with both interval and screen-detected breast cancers (HR 4.92 (95% CI 2.98-8.12) and HR 2.30 (95% CI 1.39-3.80), respectively, for VDG-like category (C)4 compared to C1 (p for heterogeneity = 0.041)). The association between percentage dense volume categories and interval breast cancer risk (HR 8.37) was not significantly stronger than the association between absolute dense volume categories and interval breast cancer risk (HR 4.92). Conclusions Our results suggest that both absolute dense volume and percentage dense volume are strong markers of breast cancer risk, but that they are even stronger markers for predicting the occurrence of tumors that are not detected during mammography breast cancer screening.

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