Adult weight gain is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women

Adult weight gain is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer risk postmenopausal women.

According to researchers at the American Cancer Society, “Although the link between postmenopausal breast cancer and adiposity is well established, the association between weight gain and specific histopathologic characteristics of breast carcinoma has not been studied carefully.”

H.S. Feigelson and colleagues explained, “Using 1200 incident invasive breast cancers among 44,161 postmenopausal women who were not taking hormone therapy in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, we computed ageadjusted rates and rate ratios (RR) for breast cancer by histology, stage, grade, and estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) status by categories of adult weight gain.”

“Age-adjusted rates of breast cancer were highest for women who reported the most weight gain, regardless of histologic type,” the researchers reported. “For weight gain >60 pounds, compared with weight gain (<=)20 pounds the RR for ductal carcinoma was 1.89 (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.53-2.34), and the RR for lobular carcinoma was 1.54 (95% CI. 1.01-2.33). Weight gain was associated with increased risk at every tumor stage and grade.”

“The risk for regional or distant stage was elevated significantly in every category of weight gain and was 3 times higher among women who had the greatest weight gain (RR, 3.15; 95% CI, 2.21-4.48),” they discovered. “Weight gain was associated with increased risk of ERpositive/ PR-positive tumors (P for trend <.0001) but not ER-negative/PR-negative tumors (P for trend=.09). The results essentially remained unchanged when the analysis was restricted to women who had regular screening mammograms.”

The authors concluded, “Excess adiposity is an important contributor to breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, regardless of histologic type, and especially for tumors of advanced stage and high grade.”

Feigelson and colleagues published their study in Cancer (Adult weight gain and histopathologic characteristics of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. Cancer, 2006;107(1):12-21).

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Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.