There are significant ethnic differences in mammographic density which are consistent with those for breast cancer risk, suggesting that there are factors, either genetic, environmental, or both, that are common but specific to large populations of women and could help explain variability in mammographic density and thereby breast cancer risk and mortality. Little is known about the variation for mammographic density in aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and understanding its association with breast cancer risk and mortality in women of different ethnic descent, socio-economic status and/or remoteness of residence will help identify groups of women at higher risk of the disease. We aim to determine whether the distribution of mammographic density in Western Australian Aboriginal women is different than that of age- and location-matched non-aboriginal women.

We will also investigate whether mammographic density strongly predicts breast cancer risk in these women. The study design is a retrospective population based case-control study using existing resources from BreastScreen WA and linked cancer and mortality data via the department of Health WA.

The study will help determine whether mammographic density could be used in a screening setting to identify and target groups of women at higher (or lower) risk, thereby optimising screening practise and improving screening outcomes for women in Western Australia.


This work has been supported by Cancer Australia, Cancer Council WA and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Selected publications

  • McLean, K. E. and J. Stone (2018). "Role of breast density measurement in screening for breast cancer." Climacteric: 1-7. [pubmed]