Childhood body mass index and adult mammographic density measures that predict breast cancer risk

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2016 Feb;156(1):163-70. doi: 10.1007/s10549-016-3719-x. Epub 2016 Feb 23.


The aim of the present study is to determine if body mass index (BMI) during childhood is associated with the breast cancer risk factor 'adult mammographic density adjusted for age and BMI'. In 1968, the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study studied every Tasmanian school child born in 1961. We obtained measured heights and weights from annual school medical records across ages 7-15 years and imputed missing values. Between 2009 and 2012, we administered to 490 women a questionnaire that asked current height and weight and digitised at least one mammogram per woman. Absolute and percent mammographic densities were measured using the computer-assisted method CUMULUS. We used linear regression and adjusted for age at interview and log current BMI. The mammographic density measures were negatively associated: with log BMI at each age from 7 to 15 years (all p < 0.05); with the average of standardised log BMIs across ages 7-15 years (p < 0.0005); and more strongly with standardised log BMI measures closer to age 15 years (p < 0.03). Childhood BMI measures explained 7 and 10 % of the variance in absolute and percent mammographic densities, respectively, and 25 and 20 % of the association between current BMI and absolute and percent mammographic densities, respectively. Associations were not altered by adjustment for age at menarche. There is a negative association between BMI in late childhood and the adult mammographic density measures that predict breast cancer risk. This could explain, at least in part, why BMI in adolescence is negatively associated with breast cancer risk.

Keywords: Adolescence; Body mass index; Breast cancer; Childhood growth; Mammographic density; Prospective study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Density*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Child
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Tasmania