Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 555–563 | Cite as

Circulating levels of inflammatory markers and mammographic density among postmenopausal women

  • Katherine W. Reeves
  • Joel L. Weissfeld
  • Francesmary Modugno
  • Brenda Diergaarde


Mammographic density is strongly associated with breast cancer risk. Inflammation is involved in breast carcinogenesis, perhaps through effects on mammographic density. We evaluated associations between inflammatory markers interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and C-reactive protein (CRP) and mammographic density among postmenopausal women. Plasma IL-6, TNF-α, and CRP levels were measured in 145 women with benign breast disease (benign controls) and 397 women with a negative screening mammogram (well controls) enrolled in the Mammograms and Masses Study. Associations between the inflammatory markers and mammographic density were evaluated separately for benign and well controls through correlation analyses and linear regressions. Age-adjusted mean CRP levels were higher among benign controls (2.07 μg/ml) compared to well controls (1.63 μg/ml; P = 0.02), while IL-6 and TNF-α levels were similar between groups. Using linear regression, IL-6, TNF-α, and CRP were not statistically significantly associated with dense breast area within either group. Statistically significant positive associations were observed between all three markers and nondense breast area in both groups; statistically significant negative associations were observed between IL-6 and percent density among benign controls, and between all three markers and percent density among well controls. These associations were all attenuated and non-significant upon adjustment for body mass index. IL-6, TNF-α, and CRP levels were not independently associated with dense breast area, nondense breast area, or percent density in this study population. Our results suggest that these inflammatory factors do not impact breast carcinogenesis through independent effects on mammographic density.


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) C-reactive protein (CRP) Mammographic density Postmenopausal 



Analysis of variance


Body mass index




C-reactive protein


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay




Laboratory for Biochemsitry Research


Mammograms and Masses Study


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug


Tumor necrosis factor alpha



This work was supported by Department of Defense Grant BC050518 and National Institutes of Health Grant R25 CA057703. Additional support was provided by funds received from the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Research Resources/General Clinical Research Center Grant MO1-RR000056.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine W. Reeves
    • 1
    • 4
  • Joel L. Weissfeld
    • 2
    • 3
  • Francesmary Modugno
    • 2
  • Brenda Diergaarde
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Public Health, School of Public Health and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public HealthUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.University of Pittsburgh Cancer InstitutePittsburghUSA
  4. 4.AmherstUSA

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