Infertility and Fertility Treatments Linked To Greater Breast Density Interview with:

Frida Lundberg | PhD Student Dept. of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Karolinska Institutet

Frida Lundberg

Frida Lundberg | PhD Student
Dept. of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Karolinska Institutet

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: Fertility treatments involve stimulation with potent hormonal drugs that increase the amount of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones have been linked to breast cancer risk. Further, as these treatments are relatively new, most women who have gone through them are still below the age at which breast cancer is usually diagnosed. Therefore we wanted to investigate if infertility and fertility treatments influences mammographic breast density, a strong marker for breast cancer risk that is also hormone-responsive.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: We found that women with a history of infertility had higher absolute dense volume than other women. Among the infertile women, those who had gone through controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) had the highest absolute dense volume. The results from our study indicate that infertile women, especially those who undergo COS, might represent a group with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, the observed difference in dense volume was relatively small and has only been linked to a modest increase in breast cancer risk in previous studies.  As the infertility type could influence what treatment the couples undergo, the association might also be due to the underlying infertility rather than the treatment per se.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Since we are not sure whether the higher density is due to the treatments or the underlying infertility, it is difficult to give advice to clinicians regarding the counseling of infertile patients. Further research is needed in order to establish the results before any actions are taken by clinicians.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

 Response: This is the first population-based study on the association between infertility, fertility treatments and mammographic density. This study should preferrably be repeated in other populations of infertile women. Time since latest treatment as well as the number of treatments a woman has undergone are important factors to explore further. Also, in order to separate potential effects of infertility and fertility treatments, studies that also include diagnoses of infertility are needed.


Frida E. Lundberg, Anna L. V. Johansson, Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg, Judith S. Brand, Kamila Czene, Per Hall, Anastasia N. Iliadou. Association of infertility and fertility treatment with mammographic density in a large screening-based cohort of women: a cross-sectional study. Breast Cancer Research, 2016; 18 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13058-016-0693-5

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Last Updated on April 15, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD