Weight is More Informative than Body Mass Index for Predicting Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk: Prospective Family Study Cohort (ProF-SC)

Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2022 Mar 1;15(3):185-191. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-21-0164.


We considered whether weight is more informative than body mass index (BMI) = weight/height2 when predicting breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women, and if the weight association differs by underlying familial risk. We studied 6,761 women postmenopausal at baseline with a wide range of familial risk from 2,364 families in the Prospective Family Study Cohort. Participants were followed for on average 11.45 years and there were 416 incident breast cancers. We used Cox regression to estimate risk associations with log-transformed weight and BMI after adjusting for underlying familial risk. We compared model fits using the Akaike information criterion (AIC) and nested models using the likelihood ratio test. The AIC for the weight-only model was 6.22 units lower than for the BMI-only model, and the log risk gradient was 23% greater. Adding BMI or height to weight did not improve fit (ΔAIC = 0.90 and 0.83, respectively; both P = 0.3). Conversely, adding weight to BMI or height gave better fits (ΔAIC = 5.32 and 11.64; P = 0.007 and 0.0002, respectively). Adding height improved only the BMI model (ΔAIC = 5.47; P = 0.006). There was no evidence that the BMI or weight associations differed by underlying familial risk (P > 0.2). Weight is more informative than BMI for predicting breast cancer risk, consistent with nonadipose as well as adipose tissue being etiologically relevant. The independent but multiplicative associations of weight and familial risk suggest that, in terms of absolute breast cancer risk, the association with weight is more important the greater a woman's underlying familial risk.

Prevention relevance: Our results suggest that the relationship between BMI and breast cancer could be due to a relationship between weight and breast cancer, downgraded by inappropriately adjusting for height; potential importance of anthropometric measures other than total body fat; breast cancer risk associations with BMI and weight are across a continuum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postmenopause
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors