Adult height and risk of breast cancer: a possible effect of early nutrition

Br J Cancer. 2001 Sep 28;85(7):959-61. doi: 10.1054/bjoc.2001.1946.


The relationship of breast cancer to early reproductive development and height suggests that fetal and childhood nutrition may be important in its aetiology. Caloric restriction sufficient to reduce adult height may reduce breast cancer risk. During World War II (WWII) there was a marked reduction in average caloric intake in Norway that resulted in greater nutritional diversity. We hypothesized that a positive association between height and risk of breast cancer would be stronger among women who were born during this period than among women born before or after the war. A total of 25 204 Norwegian women were followed up for approximately 11 years, and 215 incident cases of breast cancer were registered. We found the strongest positive association between height and breast cancer among women born during WWII: women in the tallest tertile (>167 cm) had a relative risk of 2.5 (95% confidence interval = 1.2-5.5) compared with the shortest (< or = 162 cm). Among women born before or after the war we found no clear association with height. The association with height in the WWII cohort may imply a role for early nutrition in breast cancer aetiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Height*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors