Contrast-detail experiments were performed to optimize technique factors for the detection of low-contrast lesions using a silicon diode array full-field digital mammography (FFDM) system under the conditions of a matched average glandular dose (AGD) for different techniques. Optimization was performed for compressed breast thickness from 2 to 8 cm. FFDM results were compared to screen-film mammography (SFM) at each breast thickness. Four contrast-detail (CD) images were acquired on a SFM unit with optimal techniques at 2, 4, 6, and 8 cm breast thicknesses. The AGD for each breast thickness was calculated based on half-value layer (HVL) and entrance exposure measurements on the SFM unit. A computer algorithm was developed and used to determine FFDM beam current (mAs) that matched AGD between FFDM and SFM at each thickness, while varying target, filter, and peak kilovoltage (kVp) across the full range available for the FFDM unit. CD images were then acquired on FFDM for kVp values from 23-35 for a molybdenum-molybdenum (Mo-Mo), 23-40 for a molybdenum-rhodium (Mo-Rh), and 25-49 for a rhodium-rhodium (Rh-Rh) target-filter under the constraint of matching the AGD from screen-film for each breast thickness (2, 4, 6, and 8 cm). CD images were scored independently for SFM and each FFDM technique by six readers. CD scores were analyzed to assess trends as a function of target-filter and kVp and were compared to SFM at each breast thickness. For 2 cm thick breasts, optimal FFDM CD scores occurred at the lowest possible kVp setting for each target-filter, with significant decreases in FFDM CD scores as kVp was increased under the constraint of matched AGD. For 2 cm breasts, optimal FFDM CD scores were not significantly different from SFM CD scores. For 4-8 cm breasts, optimum FFDM CD scores were superior to SFM CD scores. For 4 cm breasts, FFDM CD scores decreased as kVp increased for each target-filter combination. For 6 cm breasts, CD scores decreased slightly as kVp increased for Mo-Mo, but did not change significantly as a function of kVp for either Mo-Rh or Rh-Rh. For 8 cm breasts, Rh/Rh FFDM CD scores were superior to other target-filter combinations and increased significantly as kVp increased. These results indicate that low-contrast lesion detection was optimized for FFDM by using a softer x-ray beam for thin breasts and a harder x-ray beam for thick breasts, when AGD was kept constant for a given breast thickness. Under this constraint, optimum low-contrast lesion detection with FFDM was superior to that for SFM for all but the thinnest breasts. © 2003 American Association of Physicists in Medicine.