Obesity is a well-known risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer. In contrast, the relationship between obesity and stage of breast cancer at diagnosis is less clear. We hypothesized that increased breast size in obese women may delay discovery of breast tumors. Thus, the purpose of our study was to examine whether there is an association between body mass and stage of breast cancer at diagnosis using hospital medical records. Newly diagnosed breast cancer cases (n = 966) in the Baltimore metropolitan area from 1991 to 1997 were included in our study. Patient information including age, ethnicity, weight, height and pathology data were obtained from hospital medical records. High body mass was significantly associated with late stage of breast cancer at diagnosis. Women who were obese (body mass index [BMI] > or = 27.3) were more likely to be at an advanced stage at diagnosis compared with women with a BMI of < 27.3 (multivariate-adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.57, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.15-2.14). The association between body mass and stage at diagnosis was stronger among women younger than 50 years (OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.34-4.08) compared with women 50 years or older (OR 1.30, 95% CI 0.89-1.91). Our study suggests that higher body mass is associated with advanced stage of breast cancer at diagnosis. This finding may be of considerable concern, given the increasing prevalence of obesity in women in the United States and the poor prognosis associated with late-stage tumors.
Copyright 2001 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.