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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001 Jun 20;93(12):930-6.

Bone mass and breast cancer risk in older women: differences by stage at diagnosis.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.



Older women with low bone mineral density (BMD) have a decreased incidence of breast cancer. It is not known whether this association is confined to early-stage, slow-growing tumors.


We prospectively studied 8905 women who were 65 years of age or older during the period from 1986 through 1988 and had no history of breast cancer. At study entry, we used single-photon absorptiometry to measure each woman's BMD at three skeletal sites: the wrist, forearm, and heel. The women were followed for a mean of 6.5 years for the occurrence of breast cancer. All statistical tests were two-sided.


During 57 516 person-years of follow-up, 315 women developed primary invasive or in situ breast cancer. Multivariate analyses that adjusted for age, obesity, and other covariates revealed that the risk of breast cancer for women in the highest quartile of BMD for all three skeletal sites was 2.7 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.4 to 5.3) times greater than that for women in the lowest quartile at all three skeletal sites. The magnitude of increased risk associated with high BMD differed by the stage of disease at diagnosis and was greater for more advanced tumors (relative risk [RR] for TNM [i.e., tumor-lymph node-metastasis] stage II or higher tumors = 5.6; 95% CI = 1.2 to 27.4) than for early-stage disease (RR for in situ/TNM stage I tumors = 2.2; 95% CI = 1.0 to 4.8).


Elderly women with high BMD have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially advanced cancer, compared with women with low BMD. These findings suggest an association between osteoporosis and invasive breast cancer, two of the most prevalent conditions affecting an older woman's health.

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