Anthropometric factors and physical activity and risk of thyroid cancer in postmenopausal women

Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Mar;23(3):421-30. doi: 10.1007/s10552-011-9890-9. Epub 2012 Jan 3.


Purpose: To investigate the associations of anthropometric factors and physical activity with risk of thyroid cancer in a large prospective study.

Methods: We examined these associations with risk of incident thyroid cancer in a cohort of 144,319 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for factors of interest with risk of all thyroid cancer (n = 294) and of the two major subtypes: papillary (n = 245) and follicular thyroid cancer (n = 32).

Results: After adjustment for covariates, measured height at baseline was positively associated with thyroid cancer overall (HR for highest vs. lowest quartile 1.48, 95% CI 1.04-2.13, p for trend 0.02) and with papillary carcinoma (HR 1.49, 95% CI 1.01-2.21, p for trend 0.03, respectively). For each 5 cm-increase in height, the HR for all thyroid cancer was 1.15, 95% CI 1.04-1.27 and for papillary thyroid cancer was 1.14, 95% CI 1.03-1.27. In addition, self-reported weight at age 18 was positively associated with risk of papillary thyroid cancer. In contrast, baseline weight, body mass index, waist circumference, hip circumference, waist-hip ratio, weight change from age 18 to baseline, and level of self-reported recreational physical activity were not associated with risk.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that attained stature is a risk factor for thyroid cancer in postmenopausal women. This association may reflect the influence of either genetic or environmental factors in early life on risk of thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Postmenopause*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*