Open Access Research article

A comparison of breast density measures between mothers and adolescent daughters

Gertraud Maskarinec1*, Yukiko Morimoto1, Yihe Daida23, John Shepherd4 and Rachel Novotny123

Author Affiliations

1 Epidemiology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu, USA

2 Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA

3 Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Honolulu, USA

4 Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, USA

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:330  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-330

Published: 2 August 2011



Based on the importance of breast density as a predictor of breast cancer risk, we examined the heritable component of breast measures in mothers and daughters using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA).


We recruited 101 mothers ≥30 years and their daughters aged 10-16 years through Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. Scans of both breasts were taken using a DXA system in research mode, calibrated to distinguish fibroglandular and fatty breast tissue. We calculated correlation coefficients between mothers and daughters for breast volume, absolute fibroglandular volume (FGV), and %FGV and performed multiple linear regression to include relevant covariates.


Breast volume and absolute FGV in daughters were lower than in mothers and were positively associated with % total body fat and Tanner breast stage. In contrast, %FGV in daughters was higher than in mothers and was inversely associated with % total body fat. Although unadjusted correlations between mothers and daughters were significant for breast volume and absolute FGV (r = 0.28 and p < 0.01 for both), models adjusted for demographic variables, Tanner stage, and % total body fat indicated significant associations only among the more mature girls (Tanner stages 4&5). There was no significant association between %FGV of mothers and daughters.


These results indicate that the heritability of breast volume and amount of dense tissue is measurable in adolescence, but percent breast density shows no relation between mothers and daughters at that time. Further study of breast tissue composition during adolescence and in young women may enhance understanding of breast cancer risk later in life.

Breast density; breast development; hereditary factors; % total body fat; breast imaging