High-risk mammographic patterns represent an increased risk of contracting breast cancer and may be used as a surrogate endpoint for the disease. We examined the relationship between oral contraceptive (OC) use and mammographic patterns among 3218 Norwegian women, aged 40-56 years. Information on ever OC use, duration, and age of first OC use and other epidemiological data were obtained through questionnaires. The mammograms were categorized into five groups. Patterns I-III were combined into a low-risk group and patterns IV and V into a high-risk group. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated using logistic regression and adjusted for age, menopausal status, parity, age at first birth, and body mass index. Women who reported ever having used OCs were 20% more likely (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.0-1.6) to have high-risk mammographic patterns compared with those reporting never having used OCs. There was no dose response between different measures of OC use and high-risk patterns. Among nulliparous women, ever OC users were four times more likely (OR 4.65, 95% CI 2.1-10.3) to have high-risk patterns compared with never users. Our findings suggest that, especially among nulliparous women, ever OC use may exert its effect on breast cancer risk through changes in breast tissue, which can be observed on a mammogram. © 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.