Anthropometric factors, physical activity, and risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the Women's Health Initiative

Cancer Epidemiol. 2012 Feb;36(1):52-9. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2011.05.014. Epub 2011 Aug 4.


Background: Incidence rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) increased substantially in the United States and worldwide during the latter part of the 20th century, but little is known about its etiology. Obesity is associated with impaired immune function through which it may influence the risk of NHL; other factors reflecting energy homeostasis (height, abdominal adiposity, and physical activity) may also be involved.

Methods: We examined the association of anthropometric factors and physical activity with risk of NHL and its major subtypes in a large cohort of women aged 50-79 years old who were enrolled at 40 clinical centers in the United States between 1993 and 1998. Over a mean follow-up period of 11 years, 1123 cases of NHL were identified among 158,975 women. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: Height at baseline was positively associated with risk of all NHL and with that of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (HRs(q4vs.q1) 1.19, 95% CI 1.00-1.43 and 1.43, 95% CI 1.01-2.03, respectively). Measures of obesity and abdominal adiposity at baseline were not associated with risk. Hazard ratios for NHL were increased for women in the highest quartile of weight and body mass index at age 18 (HRs(q4vs.q1) 1.29, 95% CI 1.01-1.65 and 1.27, 95% CI 1.01-1.59, respectively). Some measures of recreational physical activity were modestly associated with increased risk of NHL overall, but there were no clear associations with specific subtypes.

Conclusion: Our findings regarding anthropometric measures are consistent with those of several previous reports, suggesting that early life influences on growth and immune function may influence the risk of NHL later in life.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / epidemiology*
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*