Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 12, Issue 10, pp 875-880

First online:

Metabolic disorders and breast cancer risk (United States)

  • John A. BaronAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical SchoolDepartment of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical SchoolDarmouth Medical School
  • , Elisabete WeiderpassAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Epidemiology, Karolinska InstituteUnit of Field and Intervention Studies, International Agency for Research on Cancer
  • , Polly A. NewcombAffiliated withComprehensive Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin
  • , Meir StampferAffiliated withDepartment of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
  • , Linda Titus-ErnstoffAffiliated withDepartment of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School
  • , Kathleen M. EganAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health
  • , E. Robert GreenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School

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Objective: To clarify the hormonal context of breast cancer etiology we used data from a large, population-based case–control study to investigate the relationship between breast cancer risk and a history of diabetes mellitus, disorders associated with estrogen stimulation (uterine fibroids, endometriosis, gallstones), and disorders associated with androgen stimulation (acne, hirsutism, and polycystic ovaries). Methods: Breast cancer patients between 50 and 75 years old were identified from state-wide tumor registries in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire; controls were randomly selected from drivers' license lists (age less than 65) or Medicare enrollment files (age 65–74). Information on reproductive history, medical history, and personal habits was obtained by telephone interview. A total of 5659 cases and 5928 controls were interviewed and provided suitable data. Results: There was no overall association between breast cancer risk and reported history of diabetes mellitus, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, gallstones, or cholecystectomy. However, the disorders with androgenic associations all conferred an increased risk: the overall odds ratio (OR) for a history of acne was 1.4 (95% CI 1.0–1.9), that for hirsutism was 1.2 (95% CI 0.81–1.8), and that for polycystic ovaries 1.6 (95% CI 0.8–3.2). Diabetes mellitus diagnosed before age 35 conferred an odds ratio of 0.52 (95% 0.25–1.1), while diabetes diagnosed at a later age was associated with an increased risk (OR = 1.2, 95% CI 1.0–1.4). Conclusions: Androgen-related phenomena are likely to be important in the etiology of breast cancer.

androgens breast neoplasms diabetes mellitus estrogens