The incidence of ovarian cancer is up to 10 times higher in Western countries than in rural Asia and Africa. One common consequence of a Western lifestyle is the development of excessive body weight and obesity. A multi-centre prospective study was conducted to investigate the association between body mass index (BMI) and ovarian cancer risk. A case-control study was nested within 3 prospective cohorts in New York (USA), Umeå (Sweden) and Milan (Italy). Information on anthropometry, demographic characteristics, medical history and lifestyle was obtained at the time of subjects' recruitment in each cohort. Women diagnosed with primary, invasive epithelial ovarian cancer from the 3 cohorts (n = 122) diagnosed 12 months or later after recruitment into the respective cohort served as case subjects. For each case subject, 2 control subjects that matched the case subject on cohort, menopausal status, age and date of recruitment were randomly identified. Data were analyzed by conditional logistic regression. There was an inverse association between BMI and ovarian cancer risk. For increasing quartiles of BMI above the lowest, the ORs were 0.62 (0.32-1.21), 0.59 (0.30-1.17) and 0.46 (0.23-0.92), p = 0.03. Analyses limited to women diagnosed 3 or more years after recruitment into the cohorts did not alter these findings. When obese women (BMI > 30) were compared to lean women (BMI < or = 23), the inverse association became stronger, with an OR of 0.38 (0.17-0.85), p < 0.02. There was some evidence of direct association of ovarian cancer with height, which was limited to cancers diagnosed before age 55. Our data suggest that increasing body weight may confer a protection against ovarian cancer.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.