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Open Access Research article

Different measures of smoking exposure and mammographic density in postmenopausal Norwegian women: a cross-sectional study

Yngve Bremnes1*, Giske Ursin23, Nils Bjurstam4 and Inger T Gram1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

2 Department of Preventive Medicine/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA

3 Department of Nutrition, University of Oslo, Norway

4 Department of Radiology, Center for Breast Imaging, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway

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Breast Cancer Research 2007, 9:R73  doi:10.1186/bcr1782

Published: 26 October 2007

Abstract

Background

Recent cohort studies have suggested an increased risk of breast cancer with long duration of smoking, and with smoking initiation before first birth. Cigarette smoking may have both carcinogenic effects and antiestrogenic effects on the breast tissue. We decided to examine the relationship between different measures of smoking exposure and mammographic density.

Methods

Lifetime smoking history was collected through interview and questionnaires among 907 postmenopausal participants in the Tromsø Mammography and Breast Cancer study. The mammograms were obtained from the governmental Norwegian Breast Cancer Screening Program. Mammograms were classified according to the percentage and absolute mammographic densities using a previously validated computer-assisted method.

Results

Sixty-five percent of the women reported having ever smoked cigarettes, while 34% were current smokers. After adjustment for age, age at first birth, parity, age at menopause, postmenopausal hormone therapy use, and body mass index, smoking was inversely associated with both measures of mammographic density (both trends P < 0.01). Both current smokers and former smokers had significantly lower adjusted mean percentage mammographic density compared with never smokers (P = 0.003 and P = 0.006, respectively). An inverse dose–response relationship with mammographic density was found between both the number of cigarettes and the number of pack-years smoked among current smokers. Current smokers who smoked 11 cigarettes or more daily had a 3.7% absolute (36% relative difference) lower percentage mammographic density compared with current smokers who smoked seven cigarettes or less daily (P = 0.008). When former smokers were stratified according to time since smoking cessation, we found that women who had stopped smoking less than 24 years ago had a significantly lower mean percentage mammographic density compared with never smokers (P < 0.001).

Conclusion

We found modest inverse dose–response associations between numbers of cigarettes and of pack-years smoked and both measures of mammographic density among current smokers. Former smokers who had stopped smoking less than 24 years ago also had a statistically significantly lower mean percentage mammographic density when compared with never smokers. These findings are consistent with an antiestrogenic effect of cigarette smoking on the breast tissue.