Dietary intake from birth through adolescence in relation to risk of benign breast disease in young women

  • Catherine S. BerkeyEmail author
  • Rulla M. Tamimi
  • Walter C. Willett
  • Bernard Rosner
  • Martha Hickey
  • Adetunji T. Toriola
  • A. Lindsay Frazier
  • Graham A. Colditz



Nutritional factors during different periods in life impact breast cancer risk. Because benign breast disease (BBD) is a well-established risk factor for breast cancer, we investigated childhood nutrition from birth through age 14 year and subsequent BBD.


A prospective cohort study of 9031 females, 9–15 year at baseline, completed questionnaires (including heights, weights) annually from 1996 to 2001, in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014. In 1996, mothers reported infant feeding practices during their daughters first year of life. Beginning in 1996, participants completed annual food frequency questionnaires. In 2005, participants (18 year +) began reporting whether they had ever been diagnosed with biopsy-confirmed BBD (N = 173 cases). Multivariable logistic regression models estimated associations between childhood nutrition and BBD, adjusted for maternal breast disease and childhood body size factors.


Although no infant nutrition factors were associated with biopsy-confirmed BBD, certain adolescent dietary factors were. A multivariable model simultaneously included the most important diet and body size factors from different age periods: higher BBD risk was associated with greater age 10 year consumption of animal (non-dairy, energy-adjusted) fat (OR 2.27, p < .02, top vs. bottom quartiles) and with lower 14 year consumption of nuts/peanut butter (OR 0.60, p = .033, top vs. bottom quartiles).


Greater intake of animal (non-dairy) fat at 10 year and lower intake of nuts/peanut butter at 14 year were independently associated with higher BBD risk. These dietary factors appeared to operate on BBD risk independent of childhood growth (gestational weight gain, childhood BMI and height, adolescent height growth velocity), young adult height and BMI, and family history.


Infant nutrition Childhood diet Adolescent diet Alcohol Pre-malignant Benign breast disease 



This study was supported by a grant from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (NYC, NY) and by DK046834 from the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD). Dr. Colditz was supported, in part, by an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship. NIH provided funding for early data collection when the cohort was founded in 1996. Our funding sources had no role in the writing, or decisions regarding submission, of the manuscript. The authors appreciate the ongoing, since 1996, dedication of our female GUTS participants and their mothers in NHSII.

Author contributions

CB and GC conceived and designed the study and prepared the initial draft. CB, RT, WW, BR, AF, and GC contributed to data collection efforts over multiple years. CB performed the analyses. CB, RT, WW, BR, MH, AT, AF, and GC contributed to the interpretation of the data and revision of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

Dr. Frazier serves on the clinical advisory board for Decibel Therapeutics (not related to this manuscript). The remaining authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

Supplementary material

10549_2019_5323_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of MedicineBrigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Nutrition and EpidemiologyHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyThe University of Melbourne and the Royal Women’s HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of SurgeryWashington University School of Medicine and Alvin J Siteman Cancer CenterSt. LouisUSA
  5. 5.Department of Pediatric OncologyDana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA
  6. 6.Washington University School of MedicineAlvin J. Siteman Cancer CenterSt. LouisUSA

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