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The relationship between breast density and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.

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It is not well understood whether breast density is a marker of cumulative exposure to estrogen or a marker of recent exposure to estrogen. The authors examined the relationship between bone mineral density (BMD; a marker of lifetime estrogen exposure) and breast density.


The authors conducted a cross-sectional analysis among 1800 postmenopausal women > or = 54 years. BMD data were taken from two population-based studies conducted in 1992-1993 (n = 1055) and in 1998-1999 (n = 753). The authors linked BMD data with breast density information collected as part of a mammography screening program. They used linear regression to evaluate the density relationship, adjusted for age, hormone therapy use, body mass index (BMI), and reproductive covariates.


There was a small but significant negative association between BMD and breast density. The negative correlation between density measures was not explained by hormone therapy or age, and BMI was the only covariate that notably influenced the relationship. Stratification by BMI only revealed the negative correlation between bone and breast densities in women with normal BMI. There was no relationship in overweight or obese women. The same relationship was seen for all women who had never used hormone therapy, but it was not significant once stratified by BMI.


BMD and breast density were not positively associated although both are independently associated with estrogen exposure. It is likely that unique organ responses obscure the relationship between the two as indicators of cumulative estrogen exposure.

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