Increased body mass index (BMI) has been found to be associated with elevated risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Whether BMI is related to premenopausal breast cancer has not yet been established. We performed a meta-analyses of data from 23 studies that provided information on BMI and incidence of premenopausal breast cancer. Overall, the data support a modest inverse association. For a BMI difference of 8 kg per m2, that is, the difference between a thin person and someone who is morbidly obese, the random effects estimate of the rate ratio from the four cohort studies was 0.70 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.54-0.91], and the random effects estimate of the odds ratio from the 19 case-control studies was 0.88 (95% CI = 0.76-1.02). Because of substantial heterogeneity among the study-specific estimates, however, we also examined the influence of certain aspects of study design. Case-control studies with community controls had a more inverse association, whereas case-control studies that interviewed cases shortly after diagnosis applied the same exclusion criteria to cases and controls, or with confounder adjustment beyond age had a more positive association between BMI and breast cancer. Possible reasons for the discrepancies among the case-control studies are discussed.