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Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Apr 1;159(7):671-82.

Childhood growth and breast cancer.

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Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


Adult height is known to be positively associated with breast cancer risk. The mechanism underlying this association is complex, since adult height is positively correlated with age at menarche, which in turn is negatively associated with breast cancer risk. The authors used prospective data from a British cohort of 2,547 girls followed from birth in 1946 to the end of 1999 to examine breast cancer risk in relation to childhood growth. As expected, adult height was positively associated with age at menarche and breast cancer. In childhood, cases were taller and leaner, on average, than noncases. Significant predictors of breast cancer risk in models containing all components of growth were height velocity at age 4-7 years (for a one-standard-deviation increase, odds ratio (OR) = 1.54, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.13, 2.09) and age 11-15 years (OR = 1.29, 95% CI: 0.97, 1.71) and body mass index velocity (weight (kg)/height (m)(2)/year) at age 2-4 years (OR = 0.63, 95% CI: 0.48, 0.83). The effects of these variables were particularly marked in women with early menarche (age <12.5 years). These findings suggest that women who grow faster in childhood and reach an adult height above the average for their menarche category are at particularly increased risk of breast cancer.

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