Heterogeneity of breast cancer risk within the South Asian female population in England: a population-based case-control study of first-generation migrants

Br J Cancer. 2004 Jan 12;90(1):160-6. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6601440.


South Asian women in England have a lower breast cancer risk than their English-native counterparts, but less is known about variations in risk between distinct South Asian ethnic subgroups. We used the data from a population-based case-control study of first-generation South Asian migrants to assess risks by ethnic subgroup. In all, 240 breast cancer cases, identified through cancer registries, were individually matched on age and general practitioner to two controls. Information on the region of origin, religious and linguistic background, and on breast cancer risk factors was obtained from participants. Breast cancer odds varied significantly between the ethnic subgroups (P=0.008), with risk increasing in the following order: Bangladeshi Muslims (odds ratio (OR) 0.33, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.10, 1.06), Punjabi Hindu (OR 0.59, 95% CI: 0.33, 1.27), Gujarati Hindu (1=reference group), Punjabi Sikh (OR 1.23, 95% CI: 0.72, 2.11) and Pakistani/Indian Muslims (OR 1.76, 95% CI: 1.10, 2.81). The statistically significant raised risk in Pakistani/Indian Muslims increased with adjustment for socioeconomic and reproductive risk factors (OR 2.12, 95% CI: 1.25, 3.58), but was attenuated, and no longer significant, with further adjustment for waist circumference and intake of nonstarch polysaccharides and fat (OR 1.49, 95% CI: 0.85, 2.63). These findings reveal differences in breast cancer risk between South Asian ethnic subgroups, which were not fully explained by reproductive differences, but were partly accounted for by diet and body size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern / ethnology
  • Body Constitution
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diet
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproductive History
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class