Body size across the life course and risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer in Black women, the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, 1993-2001

Cancer Causes Control. 2014 Sep;25(9):1101-17. doi: 10.1007/s10552-014-0411-5. Epub 2014 Jun 13.


Background: It is believed that greater adiposity is associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in premenopausal but increased risk in postmenopausal women. However, few studies have evaluated these relationships among Black women or examined anthropometric measures other than near-diagnosis body mass index (BMI).

Purpose: This study investigated associations between measures of body size across the life course and breast cancer risk among Black and White women living in the US South.

Methods: We used data from the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a population-based case-control study of invasive breast cancer in North Carolina women aged 20-74 years. We assessed nine body size variables, including age 10 relative weight; age 18 BMI; adult weight gain; "reference" BMI 1 year before interview; and post-diagnosis measured BMI and abdominal obesity measures.

Results: Among premenopausal Whites, heavier childhood relative weight was associated with decreased cancer risk [odds ratio (OR) 0.48 95 % confidence interval 0.33-0.70]. Among premenopausal Blacks, greater adult waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were associated with increased risk [waist OR 1.40 (1.00-1.97) and high tertile WHR OR 2.03 (1.29-3.19)], with associations for WHR in a similar direction in Whites. Among postmenopausal women, recalled body size was not associated with risk, except for increased risk associated with adult weight gain among White non-hormone therapy users. ER/PR status and hormone therapy use also modified other associations.

Discussion: In this population, greater adult BMI was not associated with increased breast cancer risk, but some measures of early-life body size and abdominal obesity were associated with risk.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Postmenopause
  • Premenopause
  • Risk Factors
  • Women's Health
  • Young Adult