The LEGACY Girls Study: Growth and Development in the Context of Breast Cancer Family History

Epidemiology. 2016 May;27(3):438-48. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000456.


Background: Although the timing of pubertal milestones has been associated with breast cancer risk, few studies of girls' development include girls at increased breast cancer risk due to their family history.

Methods: The Lessons in Epidemiology and Genetics of Adult Cancer from Youth (LEGACY) Girls Study was initiated in 2011 in the USA and Canada to assess the relation between early life exposures and intermediate markers of breast cancer risk (e.g., pubertal development, breast tissue characteristics) and to investigate psychosocial well being and health behaviors in the context of family history. We describe the methods used to establish and follow a cohort of 1,040 girls ages 6-13 years at baseline, half with a breast cancer family history, and the collection of questionnaire data (family history, early life exposures, growth and development, psychosocial and behavioral), anthropometry, biospecimens, and breast tissue characteristics using optical spectroscopy.

Results: During this initial 5-year phase of the study, follow-up visits are conducted every 6 months for repeated data and biospecimen collection. Participation in baseline components was high (98% for urine, 97.5% for blood or saliva, and 98% for anthropometry). At enrollment, 77% of girls were premenarcheal and 49% were at breast Tanner stage T1.

Conclusions: This study design allows thorough examination of events affecting girls' growth and development and how they differ across the spectrum of breast cancer risk. A better understanding of early life breast cancer risk factors will be essential to enhance prevention across the lifespan for those with and without a family history of the disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry
  • Breast / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking
  • Menarche*
  • Optical Imaging
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Puberty*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Maturation*
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States