A review of body size and breast cancer risk in Hispanic and African American women

Cancer. 2011 Dec 1;117(23):5271-81. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26217. Epub 2011 May 19.


Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, especially among Hispanics and African Americans. Studies of obesity and breast cancer risk have been conducted primarily in non-Hispanic whites. There have been few studies of the association between body mass index (BMI) or weight gain and the risk of breast cancer in minorities, and the results have been inconsistent. Because most studies are conducted primarily in non-Hispanic whites, the etiology of breast cancer in minorities is not well understood. The authors of the current report reviewed the literature on the association between obesity, weight, and weight gain and breast cancer in minorities using a combination of the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms "obesity," "body mass index," "weight," "weight gain," "Hispanic," and "African American." Only publications in English and with both risk estimates and 95% confidence intervals were considered. Forty-five studies of body size and breast cancer risk in non-Hispanic whites were identified. After an exhaustive search of the literature, only 3 studies of body size and breast cancer were conducted in Hispanic women were identified, and only 8 such studies in African American women were identified. The results were inconsistent in both race/ethnicity groups, with studies reporting positive, inverse, and null results. Thus, as obesity rates among Hispanics and African Americans continue to rise, there is an urgent need to identify the roles that both obesity and adult weight gain play in the development of breast cancer in these minorities. Additional studies are needed to provide more understanding of the etiology of this disease and to explain some of the disparities in incidence and mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size*
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Obesity / complications
  • Risk
  • Somatomedins / physiology


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Insulin
  • Somatomedins