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Cancer Causes Control. 1999 Apr;10(2):115-8.

The relation of breast size to breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women (United States).

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Breast size has been hypothesized to predict a woman's risk of breast cancer although studies in the main have not supported an association. In a large, population-based case-control study we examined whether breast size might emerge as a significant risk factor among very lean women in whom breast size might be a truer reflection of the volume of gland mass at risk for malignant change.


The data derive from a population-based case-control study of women aged 50 to 79 years conducted in several New England states and Wisconsin. Incident cases of invasive breast cancer (n = 2015) were identified through state tumor registries and controls (n = 2556) were selected at random within age strata from population lists. Telephone interviews were conducted to obtain information on known and suspected risk factors which included bra dimensions (cup and back size) prior to a first birth, or at the age of 20 for nulliparous women.


We observed a significant positive association for cup size which was limited to women who were the most lean as young adults based on chest circumference. Among those reporting a chest size under 34 inches multivariate-adjusted relative risks were 1.34 (95% CI: 1.04 to 1.74) for cup size B, and 1.76 (95% CI: 1.04 to 3.01) for cup size C and larger, compared to a cup size smaller than B, and the trend for increasing cup size was statistically significant (P = 0.005). There was no relation with breast size among women reporting an average or larger back circumference (34 inches or larger).


Breast size before a pregnancy is a positive predictor of postmenopausal breast cancer, but this association is limited to those who were especially lean as young women.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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