Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 29, Issue 8, pp 707–719 | Cite as

Height, waist circumference, body mass index, and body somatotype across the life course and risk of glioma

  • David J. Cote
  • Mary K. Downer
  • Timothy R. Smith
  • Stephanie A. Smith-Warner
  • Kathleen M. Egan
  • Meir J. Stampfer
Original paper



Recent studies have suggested height as a risk factor for glioma, but less is known regarding body mass index (BMI) or other anthropomorphic measures. We evaluated the association between body habitus and risk of glioma.


We evaluated the association of measures of height, BMI, waist circumference, and somatotypes with risk of glioma in two prospective cohorts, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.


We documented 508 incident cases of glioma (321 glioblastoma [GBM]). In both cohorts, we found no significant association between adult BMI or waist circumference and risk of glioma, with pooled HR for BMI of 1.08 (95% CI 0.85–1.38 comparing ≥ 30 to < 25 kg/m2) and for waist circumference of 1.05 (95% CI 0.80–1.37 highest vs. lowest quintile). Higher young adult BMI (at age 18 in NHS and 21 in HPFS) was associated with modestly increased risk of glioma in the pooled cohorts (pooled HR 1.35, 95% CI 1.06–1.72 comparing ≥ 25 kg/m2 vs. less; HR 1.34 for women and 1.37 for men). Analysis of body somatotypes suggested reduced risk of glioma among women with heavier body types at all ages this measure was assessed (HRs ranging from 0.52 to 0.65 comparing highest tertile to lowest tertile), but no significant association among men. Height was associated with increased risk of glioma among women (HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.04–1.14 per inch), but not significantly among men. Within the 8 years prior to diagnosis, cases had no material weight loss compared to non-cases. All results were similar when limited to GBM.


Adult BMI and waist circumference were not associated with glioma. Higher BMI at age 21 for men and at age 18 for women was modestly associated with risk in the pooled cohort. Based on body somatotypes, however, women with heavier body types during childhood and young adulthood may be at lower risk of glioma, although this association was not observed later in life with measurements of BMI. Greater height was associated with increased risk, and the trend was more pronounced in women.


Body habitus Body mass index Glioblastoma Glioma Height Waist circumference Weight 



We would like to thank the participants and staff of the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for their valuable contributions as well as the following state cancer registries for their help: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WY. The authors assume full responsibility for analyses and interpretation of these data.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Training Grant T32 CA 009001 (DJC, MKD). The authors acknowledge support from the following Grants: UM1 CA186107, P01 CA87969, and UM1 CA167552.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10552_2018_1052_MOESM1_ESM.tif (56 kb)
Supplementary Figure 1 Pre-diagnostic weight change for all gliomas. Figure 2 shows weight residuals in pounds for all glioma cases adjusted for height, age, age-squared, and time period by cohort for eight years prior to diagnosis (TIF 55 KB)
10552_2018_1052_MOESM2_ESM.tif (62 kb)
Supplementary Figure 2 Pre-diagnostic weight change for GBM. Figure 3 shows weight residuals in pounds for GBM cases adjusted for height, age, age-squared, and time period by cohort for eight years prior to diagnosis (TIF 62 KB)
10552_2018_1052_MOESM3_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 13 KB)
10552_2018_1052_MOESM4_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 16 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Cote
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mary K. Downer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Timothy R. Smith
    • 3
  • Stephanie A. Smith-Warner
    • 2
    • 4
  • Kathleen M. Egan
    • 5
  • Meir J. Stampfer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Computational Neurosciences Outcomes Center, Department of Neurosurgery, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of NutritionHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.Division of Population SciencesH. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research InstituteTampaUSA

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