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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 1: Body weight and breast cancer risk

  


Table 1: Body weight 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: Body weight affects the risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer differently. In premenopausal women, being overweight modestly decreases the risk of breast cancer. In postmenopausal women, however, being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer.

Menopausal hormone therapy (postmenopausal hormone use), body weight and breast cancer

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) may mask the true effect weight has on breast cancer risk. Thus, the increase in risk from being overweight or obese seen in MHT users is lower than that seen in non-users. This does not mean MHT protects against breast cancer. Rather, the increased risk of breast cancer from MHT is likely masking the increase in risk from body weight. For this reason, many studies report findings by MHT use.  

Learn more about body weight and breast cancer risk.

Learn more about menopausal hormone therapy 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.

 

Komen Perspectives 

Read Komen’s perspective on body weight and breast cancer risk
(September 2011).*
 

* Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.   

 

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 1,000 breast cancer cases and five years of follow-up, pooled analyses and meta-analyses

Table notes: In the studies below, researchers use a measure called body mass index (BMI) to estimate body fat. BMI takes into account height and weight. Calculate your BMI

Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk. 
  

Study 

Study Population
(number of participants)
 

Follow-up
(years)
 

Levels of
Body Mass Index (BMI) Compared 

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Heavier Women Compared to Leaner Women, by Menopausal Status
RR (95% CI)
 

Premenopausal 

Postmenopausal 

Prospective cohort studies 

Tretli et al. [1]

567,333
(8,427 cases)

18

Very small differences in BMI

0.84 (0.74-0.95)

1.16 (1.09-1.23)

Million Women Study (UK) [2]

1,222,630
(6,808 cases)

5.4

30 or more 
vs.
Less than 22.5

0.79 (0.68-0.92)

1.29 (1.22-1.36)

Korean Cancer Prevention Study [3]

443,273
(3,973 cases)

10.8

25-29.9
vs.
23-24.9

 

1.18 (1.04-1.34)†

 

 

 

30 or more
vs.
23-24.9

 

1.13 (0.84-1.53)†

Multiethnic Cohort Study [4]

82,971
(3,080 cases)

8-11

 25-29.9
vs.
20-24.9

 

1.35 (1.17-1.57)‡

     

30 or more
vs.
20-24.9

 

1.60 (1.36-1.87)‡

Nurses' Health Study [5]

95,256
(2,517 cases)

16

More than 31 vs.
20 or less

0.62 (0.45-0.86)

1.59 (1.09-2.32)§

PLCO Cancer Screening Trial [6]

70,575
(2,063 cases)

5

25-29.9
vs.
18.5-24.9

 

1.06 (0.95-1.17)

     

 30-34.9
vs.
18.5-24.9

 

1.10 (0.97-1.26)

     

35 or more 
vs.
18.5-24.9

 

1.21 (1.02-1.43)

Cancer Prevention Study-II (CPS-II) [7]

65,756
(1,934 cases)

7-9

35 or more 
vs.
Less than 22

 

1.61 (1.22-2.12)§

National Breast Screening Study-Canada [8]

40,318
(1,673 cases)

16.4

30 or more
vs.
Less than 25

1.01 (0.74-1.37)

1.26 (0.95-1.67)

Lundqvist et al. [9]

36,490
(1,637 cases)

26.3

30 or more 
vs.
18.5-25

0.8 (0.4-1.3)*

1.3 (1.0-1.7)

E3N Women’s Cohort Study—France [10]

94,805
(1,522 cases)

9.7

30 or more 
vs.
18.5-25

0.66 (0.40-1.10)

1.17 (0.89-1.57)§

Tornberg et al. [11]

47,003
(1,466 cases)

25

28 or more 
vs.
Less than 22

0.41Sig 

1.13Sig 

Nurses' Health Study II [12]

113,130
(1,398 cases)

14

30 or more 
vs.
Less than 20

0.81 (0.68-0.96)


 

Swedish Mammography Screening Cohort [13]

51,823
(1,188 cases)

8.3

30 or more 
vs.
18.5-24.9

 

1.28 (1.07-1.52)||

Black Women's Health Study [14]

52,080
(1,062 cases)

10

35 or more 
vs.
Less than 25

 1.35 (0.53-3.47)

0.78 (0.58-1.05)

Vorarlberg Health Monitoring and Promotion Program-Austria [15]

78,484
(1,045 cases)

9.9

35 or more 
vs.
18.5-24.9

 

1.01 (0.72-1.42)¶

Pooled and meta-analyses 

van den Brandt et al. [16]

337,819
(4,385 cases)


 

30 or more 
vs.
Less than 21

0.58 (0.34-1.00)

1.27 (1.03-1.55)

Cheraghi et al. [17]

8 studies

 

25-29.9
vs.
18.5-24.9

1.01 (0.77-1.31) 

1.12 (1.06-1.18)

     

30 or more
vs.
18.5-24.9

0.91 (0.71-1.18)

1.16 (1.08-1.25)

Suzuki et al. [18]

4 studies

 

Highest BMI vs.
Average BMI

 

For ER+/PR+ tumors:
1.74 (1.34-2.25)

For ER-/PR- tumors:
0.90 (0.53-1.52)

Sig = Results were statistically significant.  

† Includes pre- and postmenopausal women. 

‡ Relative risk for women who never used MHT. Relative risks among former MHT users were similar. Among current MHT users, there was no increase in risk, relative risks 1.04 (0.91-1.18) for women with BMI 25-29.9 vs. 20-24.9 and 1.14 (0.97-1.18) for women with BMI 30 or more vs. 20-24.9.

§ Relative risk for women who never used MHT. Relative risk among MHT users was not statistically significant.

|| For women who never used MHT, the relative risk of breast cancer was 1.38 (1.07-1.77) and among MHT users, the relative risk was 1.04 (0.75-1.45).

¶ Combined premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer risk. For women 65 and older, the relative risk was 1.48 (1.12-1.95) for women with BMI 30-34.9 vs. 18.5-24.9.

References  

  1. Tretli S. Height and weight in relation to breast cancer morbidity and mortality. A prospective study of 570,000 women in Norway. Int J Cancer. 44:23-30, 1989.
  2. Reeves GK, Pirie K, Beral V, Green J, Spencer E, Bull D. Cancer incidence and mortality in relation to body mass index in the Million Women Study: cohort study. BMJ. 335(7630):1134, 2007.
  3. Jee SH, Yun JE, Park EJ, et al. Body mass index and cancer risk in Korean men and women. Int J Cancer. 123(8):1892-6, 2008.
  4. White KK, Park SY, Kolonel LN, Henderson BE, Wilkens LR. Body size and breast cancer risk: The multiethnic cohort. Int J Cancer. 131(5):E705-16, 2012.
  5. Huang Z, Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, et al. Dual effects of weight and weight gain on breast cancer risk. JAMA. 278(17):1407-1411, 1997.
  6. 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. 9:84, 2009.
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  8. Silvera SAN, Jain M, Howe GR, et al. Energy balance and breast cancer risk: a prospective cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 97(1):97-106, 2006.
  9. Lundqvist E, Kaprio J, Verkasalo PK, et al. Co-twin control and cohort analyses of body mass index and height in relation to breast, prostate, ovarian, corpus uteri, colon and rectal cancer among Swedish and Finnish twins. Int J Cancer. 121(4):810-8, 2007.
  10. Tehard B, Lahmann PH, Riboli E, Clavel-Chapelon F. Anthropometry, breast cancer and menopausal status: Use of repeated measurements over 10 years of follow-up-results of the French E3N women's cohort study. Int J Cancer. 111(2):264-9, 2004.
  11. Tornberg SA and Carstensen JM. Relationship between Quetelet’s Index and cancer of breast and female genital tract in 47,000 women followed for 25 years. Br J Cancer. 69:358-361, 1994.
  12. Michels K, Terry KL, Willett WC. Longitudinal study on the role of body size in premenopausal breast cancer. Arch Intern Med.166(21):2395-402, 2006.
  13. Suzuki R, Rylander-Rudqvist T, Ye W, et al. Body weight and postmenopausal breast cancer risk defined by estrogen and progesterone receptor status among Swedish women: A prospective cohort study. Int J Cancer. 119(7):1683-9, 2006.
  14. Palmer JR, Adams-Campbell LL, Boggs DA, Wise LA, Rosenberg L. A prospective study of body size and breast cancer in black women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 16(9):1795-802, 2007.
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Updated 08/31/13