Background: Early age at menarche and tall stature are associated with increased breast cancer risk. We examined whether these associations were also positively associated with mammographic density, a strong marker of breast cancer risk. Methods: Participants were 10,681 breast-cancer-free women from 22 countries in the International Consortium of Mammographic Density, each with centrally assessed mammographic density and a common set of epidemiologic data. Study periods for the 27 studies ranged from 1987 to 2014. Multi-level linear regression models estimated changes in square-root per cent density (√PD) and dense area (√DA) associated with age at menarche and adult height in pooled analyses and population-specific meta-analyses. Models were adjusted for age at mammogram, body mass index, menopausal status, hormone therapy use, mammography view and type, mammographic density assessor, parity and height/age at menarche. Results: In pooled analyses, later age at menarche was associated with higher per cent density (β√PD = 0.023 SE = 0.008, P = 0.003) and larger dense area (β√DA = 0.032 SE = 0.010, P = 0.002). Taller women had larger dense area (β√DA = 0.069 SE = 0.028, P = 0.012) and higher per cent density (β√PD = 0.044, SE = 0.023, P = 0.054), although the observed effect on per cent density depended upon the adjustment used for body size. Similar overall effect estimates were observed in meta-analyses across population groups. Conclusions: In one of the largest international studies to date, later age at menarche was positively associated with mammographic density. This is in contrast to its association with breast cancer risk, providing little evidence of mediation. Increased height was also positively associated with mammographic density, particularly dense area. These results suggest a complex relationship between growth and development, mammographic density and breast cancer risk. Future studies should evaluate the potential mediation of the breast cancer effects of taller stature through absolute breast density.
- Breast cancer
- Mammographic density