Lisa J Martin; Norman F Boyd
An interesting paper published online in Breast Cancer Res. 2008;10(1) by the above authors
This is reported in a Medline article this week
There is now extensive evidence that mammographic density is a risk factor for breast cancer, independent of other risk factors, and is associated with large relative and attributable risks for the disease. The hypotheses that we have developed from the observations described above are summarized here
Cumulative Exposure to Mammographic Density and Breast Cancer Risk
Mammographic density reflects variations in the tissue composition of the breast, and is associated positively with collagen and epithelial and nonepithelial cells, and negatively with fat. Increasing age, parity, and menopause are all associated with reductions in the epithelial and stromal tissues in the breast, and with an increase in fat. These histological changes are reflected in the radiological appearance of the breast, and are consistent with mammographic density being a marker of susceptibility to breast cancer, in a manner similar to the concept of 'breast tissue age' described in the Pike model. Like breast tissue age, variations in mammographic density may reflect the mitotic activity of breast cells and differences in susceptibility to genetic damage, and cumulative exposure to density may have an important influence on breast cancer incidence.
Mitogens, Mutagens and Mammographic Density
Mammographic density is influenced by some hormones and growth factors, as well as by several hormonal interventions, and is associated with urinary levels of a mutagen. We postulate that the combined effects of cell proliferation (mitogenesis) and genetic damage to proliferating cells by mutagens (mutagenesis) may underlie the increased risk for breast cancer associated with extensive mammographic density. As described above under 'Relationship of mitogenesis and mutagenesis', mitogenesis and mutagenesis are not independent processes. Increased cell proliferation can increase lipid peroxidation, and the products of lipid peroxidation can increase cell proliferation
Potential areas for genetic influence include variation in the regulation of the hormones and growth factors that act on the breast, the response and modelling of breast tissue to these stimuli, and the processes that are involved in oxidative stress and the generation of mutagens.