Birth weight and risk of breast cancer in a cohort of 106,504 women

Int J Cancer. 2003 Dec 20;107(6):997-1000. doi: 10.1002/ijc.11481.


The possible association between prenatal factors and breast cancer has been discussed for more than a decade. Birth weight has been used commonly as a proxy measure for intrauterine growth. Whereas some previous studies have found support for an association between birth weight and breast cancer, others have been inconclusive or found no association. We investigated the relationship between birth weight and risk of female breast cancer in a cohort of 106,504 Danish women. Birth weights were obtained from school health records on girls born between 1930-1975. Information on breast cancer came from linking the cohort with the Danish Cancer Registry and the Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Groups Registry. A total of 2,334 cases of primary breast cancer were diagnosed in the cohort during 3,255,549 person-years of follow-up among women with birth weight between 500-6,000 g. Of these, 922 (40%) were diagnosed with primary breast cancer at the age of 50 years or older. A significant association between birth weight and breast cancer was found equivalent to an increase in risk of 9% per 1,000 g increase in birth weight (95% CI 2-17). The increase was observed for all age groups, representing both pre- and post-menopausal women, and irrespective of tumor characteristics. Adjustment for age at first birth and parity did not influence the results. Birth weight is positively associated with risk of breast cancer, indicating that prenatal factors are important in the etiology of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk