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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Feb;13(2):220-4.

Weight gain, body mass index, hormone replacement therapy, and postmenopausal breast cancer in a large prospective study.

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Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta Georgia 30329, USA.


Excess adiposity and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are important contributors to postmenopausal breast cancer risk. HRT has been shown to modify the association between body weight and breast cancer risk, although few studies are sufficiently large to examine the risk of breast cancer associated with body mass index (BMI) and weight gain separately among current HRT users and nonusers. This study includes 1,934 incident breast cancer cases occurring among 62,756 postmenopausal women in the Cancer Prevention Study-II Nutrition Cohort. Age-adjusted incidence rates were calculated, and Cox proportional hazards models were used to examine the association of BMI and adult weight gain (since age 18 years) with breast cancer risk stratified by HRT use. Total adult weight gain strongly predicted breast cancer risk among former and never HRT users (P for trend < 0.0001). Weight gain of 21-30 pounds was associated with a rate ratio of 1.4 (95% confidence interval 1.1-1.8); rates doubled among women gaining >70 pounds compared with women who maintained their weight within 5 pounds of their weight at age 18. After accounting for weight gain, neither recent BMI nor BMI at age 18 were independent predictors of risk. Among current HRT users, no association was seen between breast cancer and either BMI or weight gain. Adult weight gain is strongly associated with postmenopausal breast cancer only among non-HRT users in this study. These data illustrate the importance of examining breast cancer risk factors separately by HRT use; the effects of other risk factors may be attenuated or obscured among women taking HRT.

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