Risk of breast cancer in the UK biobank female cohort and its relationship to anthropometric and reproductive factors

PLoS One. 2018 Jul 26;13(7):e0201097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201097. eCollection 2018.


Background: Anthropometric and reproductive factors have been reported as being established risk factors for breast cancer (BC). This study explores the contribution of anthropometric and reproductive factors in UK females developing BC in a large longitudinal cohort.

Methods: Data from the UK Biobank prospective study of 273,467 UK females were analyzed. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each factor were adjusted for age, family history of BC and deprivation score. The analyses were stratified by the menopausal status.

Results: Over the 9 years of follow up the total number of BC cases were 14,231 with 3,378 (23.7%) incident cases with an incidence rate of 2.09 per 1000 person-years. In pre-menopausal, increase in age, height, having low BMI, low waist to hip ratio, first degree family history of BC, early menarche age, nulliparous, late age at first live birth, high reproductive interval index, and long contraceptive use duration were all significantly associated with an increased BC risk. In post-menopausal, getting older, being taller, having high BMI, first degree BC family history, nulliparous, late age at first live birth, and high reproductive interval index were all significantly associated with an increased risk of BC. The population attributable fraction (PAF) suggested that an early first live birth, lower reproductive interval index and increased number of children can contribute to BC risk reduction up to 50%.

Conclusions: This study utilizes the UK Biobank study to confirm associations between anthropometric and reproductive factors and the risk of breast cancer development. Result of attributable fraction of risk contributed by each risk factor suggested that lifetime risk of BC can be reduced by controlling weight, reassessing individual approaches to the timing of childbirth and options for contraception and considering early screening for women with family history in the first degree relative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Body Weights and Measures*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproductive History*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal