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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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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