Obesity and mammography: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Gen Intern Med. 2009 May;24(5):665-77. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-0939-3. Epub 2009 Mar 11.


Background: Obese women experience higher postmenopausal breast cancer risk, morbidity, and mortality and may be less likely to undergo mammography.

Objectives: To quantify the relationship between body weight and mammography in white and black women.

Data sources and review methods: We identified original articles evaluating the relationship between weight and mammography in the United States through electronic and manual searching using terms for breast cancer screening, breast cancer, and body weight. We excluded studies in special populations (e.g., HIV-positive patients) or not written in English. Citations and abstracts were reviewed independently. We abstracted data sequentially and quality information independently.

Results: Of 5,047 citations, we included 17 studies in our systematic review. Sixteen studies used self-reported body mass index (BMI) and excluded women <40 years of age. Using random-effects models for the six nationally representative studies using standard BMI categories, the combined odds ratios (95% CI) for mammography in the past 2 years were 1.01 (0.95 to 1.08), 0.93 (0.83 to 1.05), 0.90 (0.78 to 1.04), and 0.79 (0.68 to 0.92) for overweight (25-29.9 kg/m(2)), class I (30-34.9 kg/m(2)), class II (35-39.9 kg/m(2)), and class III (> or =40 kg/m(2)) obese women, respectively, compared to normal-weight women. Results were consistent when all available studies were included. The inverse association was found in white, but not black, women in the three studies with results stratified by race.

Conclusions: Morbidly obese women are significantly less likely to report recent mammography. This relationship appears stronger in white women. Lower screening rates may partly explain the higher breast cancer mortality in morbidly obese women.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diagnostic imaging*