Alcohol Consumption, Cigarette Smoking, and Familial Breast Cancer Risk

Findings From the Prospective Family Study Cohort (ProF-SC)

Nur Zeinomar; Julia A. Knight; Jeanine M. Genkinger; Kelly-Anne Phillips; Mary B. Daly; Roger L. Milne; Gillian S. Dite; Rebecca D. Kehm; Yuyan Liao; Melissa C. Southey; Wendy K. Chung; Graham G. Giles; Sue-Anne McLachlan; Michael L. Friedlander; Prue C. Weideman; Gord Glendon; Stephanie Nesci; kConFab Investigators; Irene L. Andrulis; Saundra S. Buys; Esther M. John; Robert J. MacInnis; John L. Hopper; Mary Beth Terry


Breast Cancer Res. 2019;21(128) 

In This Article


Study Population

The Prospective Family Study Cohort (ProF-SC)[12] includes women enrolled in the Breast Cancer Family Registry (BCFR) which includes six breast cancer family studies in the USA, Canada, and Australia,[23] and the Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for research into Familial Breast cancer (kConFab) Follow-up Project.[24,25] All probands and their family members were followed prospectively from baseline for cancer and other health outcomes.[12] Screening for germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations was conducted, as previously described.[23,26,27] The institutional review board at each participating study center approved the BCFR and kConFab, and all participants provided written informed consent.

In the current analysis, we studied women unaffected with breast cancer, aged 18 to 79 years at recruitment (baseline), who had at least 2 months of follow-up, and did not to have a bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy at baseline (N = 17,780). We excluded 191 women without sufficient pedigree data to allow calculation of a lifetime BC risk score using the Breast Ovarian Analysis of Disease Incidence and Carrier Estimation Algorithm (BOADICEA), and 236 women for whom we did not have complete data on alcohol consumption (whether they were regular or non-regular drinkers, as defined below) and cigarette smoking (whether they were current, former, or never smokers). From the 17,780 unaffected women in the original cohort, this left 17,435 (98.1%) available for analysis.


The BCFR and kConFab used the same core questionnaires at baseline.[12] The questionnaires asked about the participants' demographic characteristics; education; race/ethnicity; height and weight; menstrual and reproductive history, including age at menarche, parity, breastfeeding, age at first birth, and age at menopause; hormonal birth control; menopausal hormone therapy use; medical history including diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer, and breast or ovarian surgeries; and behavioral factors including cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. Probands also completed a family history questionnaire that asked about breast and other cancers in their first-degree and second-degree relatives. Each participant's cancer information was obtained from one or more sources and was usually self-reported or reported by a first-degree relative. We confirmed reported invasive BC diagnosis through pathology reports or cancer registry linkages for 81% of incident cases.

Definitions of Cigarette Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

Baseline questionnaires included a detailed assessment of lifetime cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, including questions about current and former smoking and drinking, duration of smoking and drinking, age at smoking and drinking initiation, average numbers of cigarettes smoked per day, and average number of each type of alcoholic drink (beer, wine/wine cooler, and liquor) consumed per week.

We classified women as ever smokers if they answered "yes" and as never smokers if they answered "no" to the following question: "Have you smoked at least one cigarette per day for 3 months or longer?". For ever smokers, we defined additional exposure variables, including smoking status (former or current), age at smoking initiation (< 16, 16 to < 18, 18 to < 20, or ≥ 20 years), smoking duration (< 10, 10 to < 20, 20 to < 30, or ≥ 30 years), and smoking intensity (1 to < 5, 5 to < 10, 10 to < 20, or ≥ 20 cigarettes per day). We classified women as regular drinkers if they answered "yes" and as non-regular drinkers if they answered "no" to the following question: "Have you ever consumed any alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, or liquor, at least once a week for 6 months or longer?". For regular drinkers, we defined additional exposure variables, including age at drinking initiation (< 18, 18 to < 21, 21 to < 30, or ≥ 30 years) and number of alcoholic drinks consumed per week (< 7 or ≥ 7), a common cut point in the literature. We defined one drink as a 12 oz. serving of beer, one medium glass of wine or wine cooler, or one shot of liquor, and calculated alcoholic drinks per week as the sum of the intake of each of the three different types of alcoholic beverages consumed.

Familial Risk Profile

For each participant, we calculated a 1-year, 10-year, and lifetime (from birth to age 80 years) risk of invasive BC from multigenerational pedigree data on breast and ovarian cancer in relatives using the BOADICEA version 3.[28,29] This algorithm uses information on ovarian and female and male breast cancer and age at diagnosis for first-, second-, and third-degree relatives (where available), along with date of birth, vital status, age at interview or death, and country- and age-specific breast cancer incidence to calculate risk. Where available, information on BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation testing was also used to calculate risk. We hereafter refer to this continuous risk score as the familial risk profile (FRP). A previous validation study of family cancer history information communicated within families in the BCFR found high sensitivity and specificity for family history of breast cancer.[30] Additionally, a recent validation study of commonly used breast cancer risk prediction models in ProF-SC found BOADICEA to be well calibrated (ratio of expected cases to observed cases 1.05 (95% CI 0.97–1.14); C-statistic 0.70 (95% CI 0.68–0.72)).[31]

Statistical Methods

We used Cox proportional hazard regression models with age as the time scale to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) for BC associated with FRP and each smoking and alcohol variable. We calculated person-years from 2 months after the age at completion of the baseline questionnaire to the age at diagnosis of BC or the earliest of the following events: age at risk-reducing mastectomy, age at death, age 80 years, or age last known to be alive. We used a robust variance estimator to account for the family structure of the cohort. We incorporated left-truncation in all models to avoid potential survivor bias. All models were stratified by birth cohort (< 1950, 1950–1959, 1960–1969, ≥ 1970) and adjusted for race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic white; non-Hispanic black; Hispanic; Asian; other) and study center. We considered the following variables measured at baseline as potential confounders: age at baseline (continuous), body mass index (BMI, continuous), education (≤ high school or general education development; vocational, technical, some college, or some university; bachelor or graduate degree), age at menarche (continuous), parity and breastfeeding (nulliparous; 1–2 full-term pregnancies and did not breast feed; 1–2 full-term pregnancies and breastfed; ≥ 3 full-term pregnancies and did not breast feed; ≥ 3 full-term pregnancies and breastfed), age at first birth (continuous and centered at mean), oral contraceptive use (current, former, never user), menopausal hormone use (current, former, never user), and menopausal status (pre- or post-menopausal). We also assessed for confounding by alcohol consumption (regular or non-regular drinker) in the smoking models and confounding by cigarette smoking (current, former, and never smoker) in the alcohol models. We included as confounding variables in the final models any variable that changed the smoking or drinking parameter estimate of interest by more than 10%. We assessed multiplicative interaction with FRP using the 1-year BOADICEA risk score and each smoking and alcohol variable of interest by including a cross-product term in the model and assessing the corresponding beta coefficient using the Wald test. We also estimated associations by estrogen receptor (ER) status (positive or negative), where the alternative ER subtype was censored at diagnosis. For example, ER-positive cases were censored at diagnosis in models examining ER-negative breast cancer. For ease of interpretation, we also present HRs by high and low FRP, using 0.34% as a categorical cutoff for absolute 1-year risk because it is the 1-year equivalent to the 5-year risk cutoff of 1.67%. We performed the following sensitivity analyses: including only those with confirmed invasive BC based on pathology reports or cancer registry linkages (81% of all cases were confirmed invasive), where unconfirmed cancers were censored at diagnosis, excluding those with a prior diagnosis of any cancer (except non-melanoma skin cancer) at baseline, and excluding BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. We assessed the proportional hazards assumption by evaluating the Schoenfeld residuals. All statistical tests were two sided, and p values < 0.05 were considered statistically significant. All statistical analyses were performed using SAS software version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA).