Anthropometry and Breast Cancer Risk

  • Amanda I. Phipps


Anthropometric factors are among the few risk factors for breast cancer that are potentially modifiable. As such, many studies have attempted to characterize the relationship between body size and breast cancer risk. Although there is much variability between studies with regard to the nature and the magnitude of such risk factor relationships, most studies indicate some association between body size and breast cancer risk. In particular, there is evidence of an increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese, particularly among nonusers of menopausal hormone therapy. Conversely, studies in premenopausal women suggest a weak inverse association between adult weight and breast cancer risk. Risk factor relationships have also been noted with measures of fat distribution and weight change in adulthood, with similar distinctions in associations by menopausal status. While most studies have focused on measures of body size in adulthood, a growing literature suggests that body size in early life is also relevant to breast cancer risk. Regardless of the anthropometric measure of interest, there are several methodological issues to consider in assessing these relationships, which can impact study findings and comparisons across studies. In particular, using self-reported anthropometric measures is problematic if women are biased in reporting their body size or have problems with recall, however, it may not always be possible or preferable to collect physical measurements of body size. Variability in population characteristics, study design, protocols for data collection, and the way anthropometric data are handled in analyses all contribute to variability in study findings.


Obesity Estrogen Luminal Estradiol Ponderal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Body mass index




Estrogen receptor


Menopausal hormone replacement therapy






Progesterone receptor


Waist-to-hip ratio



This publication was supported by grant number T32 CA09168 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute, NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Health SciencesFred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterSeattleUSA

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