What is the effect of height on a women's risk for breast cancer?

Updated: Dec 26, 2019
  • Author: Graham A Colditz, MD, DrPH; Chief Editor: Chandandeep Nagi, MD  more...
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Answer

Energy restriction powerfully reduces mammary tumor incidence in rodents. Because children who experience energy deprivation during growth do not attain their full potential height, attained height may be used as a proxy for childhood energy intake. Study of height in a longitudinal cohort of adolescents shows milk intake directly related to increased peak height velocity, supporting the role of diet in modifying height.

Most of the case-control and cohort studies of attained height and risk of breast cancer suggest a modest positive association. In a pooled analysis of large cohort studies (4385 cases among 337,819 women), the RRs for an increment of 5 cm of height were 1.02 (95% CI, 0.96-1.10) for premenopausal women and 1.07 (95% CI, 1.03-1.12) for postmenopausal women. [74]

Several large cohort studies have been conducted in Scandinavia, and, in all of them, positive associations have been observed. In the studies of Vatten and Kvinnsland, [75] the positive trend between height and risk of breast cancer was most nearly linear in the birth cohort of women (1929-1932) who lived through their peripubertal period during the Second World War, a time when food was scarce and average attained greater height reduced. Collectively, these data provide convincing evidence that attained greater height is associated with a modest increase in risk of breast cancer.


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