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UCSF paper uses Volpara TruDensity® to highlight connection between alcohol consumption, breast density, and breast cancer risk

Chief Scientific Officer Brian Drohan – Updated on January 9, 2024

Publication from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is motivated by studies indicating alcohol is a significantly attributable factor to breast cancers in the US 

Entitled Association of Daily Alcohol Intake, Volumetric Breast Density, and Breast Cancer Risk,” the paper aimed to test the association between alcohol intake, breast density, and breast cancer risk using data from four facilities in the San Francisco Mammography Registry. 

The study analyzed the following: 

  • A set of mammograms taking place between 2006 and 2013 that occurred a minimum of 6 months and an average of 3 years prior to a breast cancer diagnosis (n = 2233) 
  • A set of controls without breast cancer matched for age, earliest mammogram date, race or ethnicity, facility, and mammography machine (n = 4562) 
  • Alcohol intake, self-reported by the patient 
  • Breast density measures 

Volpara’s automated, artificial intelligence-based TruDensity algorithm was used in tandem with visual BI-RADS categorizations from radiologists to assess breast density. Through Volpara TruDensity, volumetric breast density (VBD), absolute dense tissue volume (DV), and non-dense (or fatty tissue) volume (NDV) were measured. 

Alcohol intake was assessed through a questionnaire asking women how many drinks they have per day, with the options ranging from: none, less than 1 or 1 a day, about 2 a day, or 3 or more a day. 

Women drinking 2 or more alcoholic drinks per day were found to be 1.22 times more likely to get breast cancer than those drinking 0 drinks per day. Breast density was also found to be an independent risk factor for breast cancer. 

The study found that there was no meaningful interaction between VBDalcohol intake, and breast cancer risk (OR = 1.14), nor between NDV, alcohol intake, and breast cancer (OR = 1.13).  There was also not a strong association between BI-RADS-measured density, alcohol intake, and breast cancer risk (OR = 1.10).  

However, they did find an association between DV, alcohol intake, and breast cancer risk (OR = 1.08). This indicates that while the BI-RADS breast density measure did not highlight any significant interactions between the parameters, Volpara’s objective, continuous, and discreet measure of DV did in fact do so.  

Volpara’s TruDensity DV measurement supported the association between alcohol intake and breast cancer in 25% of the women with breast cancer.

These results indicate that alcohol consumption is likely to influence fibroglandular — or dense — tissue rather than fatty tissues. Alcohol is known to have proestrogenic effects which could induce the proliferation of mammary cells. In other words, the production of estrogen in response to alcohol consumption causes fibroglandular cells to grow, increasing a woman’s breast density over time — and therefore increasing her breast cancer risk. 

To learn more about Volpara’s TruDensity algorithm and risk assessment science, reach out to