Understanding Breast Density

Frequently Asked Questions

What is breast density?

The term “breast density” describes the composition of a woman’s breasts.
High breast density means that there is a greater amount of milk producing, milk transporting, and connecting tissues, as compared to fatty tissue.

What are some factors that affect breast density?

  • Genetics: high breast density tends to run in families
  • Pregnancy: breast density decreases with each pregnancy
  • Age: younger women typically have denser breasts

How do I know if I have dense breasts?

A radiologist (the physician who interprets your screening mammogram) makes an assessment of breast density after your mammogram has been completed.
If your breasts are dense then the radiologist will share that information with the physician who referred you for your mammogram and will also notify you.

What does it mean if I have dense breasts?

Your breast tissue may hide cancer or other abnormalities from the radiologist interpreting your screening mammogram.
You may be at an increased risk of breast cancer, but, at this time, the amount of this risk is not understood and is controversial.

I’ve been told I have dense breasts. Now what?

There are currently no specific recommendations on how to lower breast cancer risk for women with dense breasts.
It’s important that you continue getting regular mammograms and any further screening tests as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Regardless of your breast density, there are steps you can take to lower your overall breast cancer risk such as not smoking, limiting alcohol use, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a normal weight.


  1. National Cancer Institute. Mammograms.http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms
  2. American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America. Mammography.http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=mammo#part_ten
  3. Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The ABCs of Breast Density.http://ww5.komen.org/Content.aspx?id=19327353285&terms=density
  4. American College of Radiology. American College of Radiology Statement on Reporting Breast Density in Mammography Reports and Patient Summaries. http://www.acr.org/About-Us/Media-Center/Position-Statements/Position-Statements-Folder/Statement-on-Reporting-Breast-Density-in-Mammography-Reports-and-Patient-Summaries
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