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Renee W. Pinsky and Mark A. Helvie

Mammographic breast density has been studied for more than 30 years. Greater breast density not only is related to decreased sensitivity of mammograms because of a masking effect but also is a major independent risk factor for breast cancer. This article defines breast density and reviews literature on quantification of mammographic density that is key to future clinical and research protocols. Important influences on breast density are addressed, including age, menopausal status, exogenous hormones, and genetics of density. Young women with dense breasts benefit from digital mammographic technique. The potential use of supplemental MRI and ultrasound screening techniques in high-risk women and women with dense breasts is explored, as are potential risk reduction strategies.