We have studied the effect of breast composition on the average whole breast dose, average glandular dose, and image contrast in mammography, using both computational and experimental methods. Three glandular/adipose compositions were considered: 30/70, 50/50, and 70/30 by weight, for both 3- and 5-cm breast thickness. Absorbed dose was found to increase with greater glandular content and this increase is more pronounced for thick breasts and softer beams. For typical screen–film x-ray beams, the average dose to a highly glandular breast is nearly twice the dose to a highly adipose breast and the average glandular dose about 40% higher. Dose was reduced when higher energy beams were employed. The use of a grid increased the dose by a factor of 2.0 to 2.6. Finally, the measured image contrast decreases with increasing breast glandularity, to a greater extent in small breasts and when low energy beams were employed.