Body size in early life and breast cancer risk in African American and European American women

Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Dec;24(12):2231-43. doi: 10.1007/s10552-013-0302-1. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


Purpose: There is growing evidence that body size in early life influences lifetime breast cancer risk, but little is known for African American (AA) women.

Methods: We evaluated body size during childhood and young adulthood and breast cancer risk among 1,751 cases [979 AA and 772 European American (EA)] and 1,673 controls (958 AA and 715 EA) in the Women's Circle of Health Study. Odds ratio (OR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CI) were computed using logistic regression models while adjusting for potential covariates.

Results: Among AA women, being shorter at 7-8 years compared to peers was associated with increased postmenopausal breast cancer risk (OR 1.68, 95 % CI 1.02-2.74), and being heavier at menarche with decreased postmenopausal breast cancer risk, although of borderline significance (OR 0.45, 95 % CI 0.20-1.02). For EA women, being shorter from childhood through adolescence, particularly at menarche, was associated with reduced premenopausal breast cancer risk (OR 0.55, 95 % CI 0.31-0.98). After excluding hormone replacement therapy users, an inverse association with postmenopausal breast cancer was found among EA women reporting to be heavier than their peers at menarche (OR 0.18, 95 % CI 0.04-0.79). The inverse relationship between BMI at age 20 and breast cancer risk was stronger and only statistically significant in EA women. No clear association with weight gain since age 20 was found.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that the impact of childhood height on breast cancer risk may differ for EA and AA women and confirm the inverse association previously reported in EA populations with adolescent body fatness, in AA women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Postmenopause
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult