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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Dec;15(12):2494-501.

Birthweight and body size throughout life in relation to sex hormones and prolactin concentrations in premenopausal women.

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Channing Laboratory, 181 Longwood Avenue, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The association of birthweight and body size throughout life with premenopausal breast cancer risk may be due, in part, to relationships with sex hormones. Therefore, we assessed whether birthweight, body shape at ages 5 and 10, body mass index (BMI) at age 18 and adulthood, adult waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and attained height were associated with the plasma concentrations of estrogens, androgens, progesterone, prolactin, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in 592 premenopausal women, ages 33 to 52 years old, from the Nurses' Health Study II. About 85% of women provided blood samples during follicular and luteal menstrual phases; other women had a single untimed sample. We observed few associations between sex hormone levels and birthweight or body shape in childhood. However, adult BMI was inversely associated with SHBG (P trend < 0.001) and positively associated with free testosterone (P trend < 0.001) concentrations. Adult BMI was not associated with follicular or luteal free estradiol levels (P trend >or= 0.15) because it was inversely associated with total estradiol levels (P trend < 0.001 for follicular and luteal estradiol levels). Testosterone, androstenedione, and progesterone were inversely associated with BMI. Comparing women with a BMI of >or=30 versus <20 kg/m2, levels were higher by 53% for free testosterone and lower by 51% for SHBG, 39% for follicular estradiol, 20% for luteal estradiol, 14% for androstenedione, 13% for testosterone, and 20% for progesterone. We observed no clear associations between BMI at age 18, waist circumference, WHR, or height, and sex hormone concentrations. Our results suggest that effects on premenopausal sex hormone levels may be one mechanism through which adult adiposity, but not birthweight or childhood body size, affects premenopausal breast cancer risk.

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