Long-term exposure to air pollution and mammographic density in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort

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BACKGROUND: Growing evidence suggests that air pollution may be a risk factor for breast cancer, but the biological mechanism remains unknown. High mammographic density (MD) is one of the strongest predictors and biomarkers of breast cancer risk, but it has yet to be linked to air pollution. We investigated the association between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and MD in a prospective cohort of women 50 years and older.

METHODS: For the 4,769 women (3,930 postmenopausal) participants in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort (1993-1997) who attended mammographic screening in Copenhagen (1993-2001), we used MD assessed at the first screening after cohort entry. MD was defined as mixed/dense or fatty. Traffic-related air pollution at residence was assessed by modeled levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The association between mean NOx and NO2 levels since 1971 until cohort baseline (1993-97) and MD was analyzed using logistic regression, adjusting for confounders, and separately by menopause, smoking status, and obesity.

RESULTS: We found inverse, statistically borderline significant associations between long-term exposure to air pollution and having mixed/dense MD in our fully adjusted model (OR; 95% CI: 0.96; 0.93-1.01 per 20 μg/m(3) of NOx and 0.89; 0.80- 0.98 per 10 μg/m(3) of NO2). There was no interaction with menopause, smoking, or obesity.

CONCLUSION: Traffic-related air pollution exposure does not increase MD, indicating that if air pollution increases breast cancer risk, it is not via MD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalEnvironmental Health
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015

ID: 135648861