Birth weight as a predictor of breast cancer: a case-control study in Norway

Br J Cancer. 2002 Jan 7;86(1):89-91. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600011.


The hypothesis that birth weight is positively associated with adult risk of breast cancer implies that factors related to intrauterine growth may be important for the development of this malignancy. Using stored birth records from the two main hospitals in Trondheim and Bergen, Norway, we collected information on birth weight, birth length and placenta weight among 373 women who developed breast cancer. From the same archives, we selected as controls 1150 women of identical age as the cases without a history of breast cancer. Information on age at first birth and parity were collected from the Central Person Registry in Norway. Based on conditional logistic regression analysis, breast cancer risk was positively associated with birth weight and with birth length (P for trend=0.02). Birth weights in the highest quartile (3730 g or more) were associated with 40% higher risk (odds ratio, 1.4, 95% confidence interval, 1.1-1.9) of breast cancer compared to birth weights in the lowest quartile (less than 3090 g). For birth length, the odds ratio for women who were 51.5 cm or more (highest quartile) was 1.3 (95% confidence interval, 1.0-1.8) compared to being less than 50 cm (lowest quartile) at birth. Adjustment for age at first birth and parity did not change these estimates. Placenta weight was not associated with breast cancer risk. This study provides strong evidence that intrauterine factors may influence future risk of breast cancer. A common feature of such factors would be their ability to stimulate foetal growth and, simultaneously, to influence intrauterine development of the mammary gland.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Birth Weight*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Placenta / anatomy & histology
  • Socioeconomic Factors