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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 10: Age at menopause and breast cancer risk


Table 10: Age at menopause and breast cancer risk


This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Age at menopause is an established risk factor for breast cancer. Women who go through menopause later in life have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who go through menopause earlier. A pooled analysis of data on 425,055 women (118,964 breast cancer cases) from 117 studies found that for every year older a woman was at menopause, breast cancer risk increased by about 3 percent [1].  

Learn more about age at menopause and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer.

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 100 breast cancer cases and pooled analyses.  

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.


Study Population
(number of


Age Categories Compared 

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with Later Menopause Compared to Women with Earlier Menopause
RR (95% CI)

Prospective cohort studies 

PLCO Cancer Screening Trial Cohort [2]

(2,085 cases)


55 or older vs.
younger than 45


Nurses' Health Study [3]

(1,761 cases)


55 vs. 45


E3N cohort study-France [4]

(1,718 cases)


50-54 vs.
younger than 40





55 or older vs.
younger than 40


Horn et al. [5]

(808 cases)


younger than 45

Among women ages 55-69 at diagnosis:
1.26 (0.80-1.98)

Among women ages 70 and older at diagnosis:
1.21 (0.92-1.59)


 55 or older 
younger than 45

 Among women ages 55-69 at diagnosis:
1.38 (0.87-2.19)

Among women ages 70 and older at diagnosis:
1.44 (1.10-1.90)


younger than 45 

Among women ages 55-69 at diagnosis:
2.16 (0.95-4.89)

Among women ages 70 and older at diagnosis:
1.68 (1.08-2.61) 

Dutch DOM cohort [6]

(485 cases)


55 or older vs.
44 or younger


Iowa Women's Health Study [7]

(428 cases)


50 or older vs.
younger than 49


Mertens et al. [8]

(342 cases)


50 or older vs.
44 or younger


Japan Public Health-based Prospective Study [9]

(228 cases)


54 or older vs.
younger than 48


De Stavola et al. [10]

(168 cases)


Older than 51 vs.
younger than 49


Pooled analyses 


(52,705 cases)


55 vs. 45


Sig = Statistically significant

* Follow-up time estimated from person-years

† Results for women aged 75-84 at diagnosis



  1. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Menarche, menopause, and breast cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis, including 118 964 women with breast cancer from 117 epidemiological studies. Lancet Oncol. 13(11):1141-51, 2012.
  2. Lacey JV Jr, Kreimer AR, Buys SS, et al. for the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial Project Team. Breast cancer epidemiology according to recognized breast cancer risk factors in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial Cohort. BMC Cancer. 17;9:84, 2009.
  3. Colditz GA and Rosner B. Cumulative risk of breast cancer to age 70 years according to risk factor status: data from the Nurses' Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 152(10):950-64, 2000.
  4. Clavel-Chapelon F, E3N Group. Cumulative number of menstrual cycles and breast cancer risk: results from the E3N cohort study of French women. Cancer Causes Control. 13(9):831-8, 2002.
  5. Horn J, Asvold BO, Opdahl S, Tretli S, Vatten LJ. Reproductive factors and the risk of breast cancer in old age: a Norwegian cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 139(1):237-43, 2013.
  6. Monninkhof EM, van der Schouw YT, Peeters PHM. Early age at menopause and breast cancer: are leaner women more protected? A prospective analysis of the Dutch DOM cohort. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 55:285-291, 1999.
  7. Sweeney C, Blair CK, Anderson KE, et al. Risk factors for breast cancer in elderly women. Am J Epidemiol. 160(9):868-75, 2004.
  8. Mertens AJ, Sweeney C, Shahar E, et al. Physical activity and breast cancer incidence in middle-aged women: a prospective cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 97(2):209-14, 2006.
  9. Iwasaki M, Otani T, Inoue M, Sasazuki S, Tsugane S for the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study Group. Role and impact of menstrual and reproductive factors on breast cancer risk in Japan. Eur J Cancer Prev. 16(2):116-23, 2007.
  10. De Stavola BL, Wang DY, Allen DS, et al. The association of height, weight, menstrual and reproductive events with breast cancer: results from two prospective studies on the island of Guernsey (United Kingdom). Cancer Causes Control. 4(4):331-340, 1993.
  11. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy: collaborative reanalysis of data from 51 epidemiological studies of 52,705 women with breast cancer and 108,411 women without breast cancer. Lancet. 11;350(9084):1047-59, 1997.

Updated 08/28/13