Objectives: The purpose of the study was to describe the associations between height and body mass index (BMI) (wt/ht2) and breast cancer incidence and survival among female residents of Hawaii.
Methods: The study sample is a randomly-selected, multi-ethnic cohort of 17,628 women. A total of 378 incident breast cancer cases were identified via linkage to the Hawaii Tumor Registry over an average follow-up period of 14.9 years. Using age 50 as a cut-point, 86 were considered premenopausal cases, and 292 were postmenopausal. Proportional hazards analysis was used to describe the risks associated with height and BMI, after adjustment for age, education, race/ethnicity, and drinking status. For mortality analyses, there were 34 breast cancer deaths among the 365 breast cancer cases for which staging information was available.
Results: The risk of postmenopausal breast cancer was found to increase progressively across approximate tertiles of the distribution of height (P = 0.02 for trend test), with a significantly excess risk among women in the tallest tertile (risk ratio [RR] = 1.5, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] = 1.1-2.1). Baseline levels of BMI were related positively to breast cancer incidence among postmenopausal women, after control for the above covariates (P = 0.01 for trend test). Among postmenopausal women in the highest quintile of the BMI distribution, the RR was 1.5 (CI = 1.0-2.3, P = 0.04). Further analyses indicated the association between BMI and postmenopausal breast cancer incidence was strongest among women aged 65 years and older. After statistical control for the above covariates and stage of disease, pre-morbid levels of BMI were significantly predictive of death from breast cancer, with an approximate nine percent increase in risk per unit increase in BMI (P = 0.01). Compared with women in the lowest two quartiles, the RR among the heaviest women was 2.2 (CI = 0.9-5.4,P = 0.08). Height was not associated with risk of breast cancer mortality.
Conclusions: Relative weight may be an important modifiable risk factor for both breast cancer incidence and prognosis. The association between height and breast cancer incidence is more difficult to interpret, but may underscore the importance of early life exposures in the development of breast cancer.