According to a study from Germany, high BMI is a well known risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer. There have been some reports of excess risk in association with weight gain, but little is known about the influence of body fatness per se.

Using data from the Malmo Diet and Cancer Study, 12,159 postmenopausal women were categorized by quintiles of baseline anthropometric and impedance measures and reported weight change since age 20. All analyses were adjusted for age, height, smoking, alcohol consumption, occupation, marital status, parity, age at first pregnancy, age at menarche and current hormone use.

During the 5.7 years of follow-up, there were 246 incident breast cancer cases. Weight, height, BMI, and body fat percentage were positively associated with risk of breast cancer. Body fat percentage showed the strongest association. There was significant modification of this association by hormone use, suggesting a greater impact of body fatness among non hormone users. Fat distribution was not independently associated with breast cancer risk.

Body Fat Percentage – More Discriminating Risk Factor for Cancer

“Breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women is predicted by increased body fat and weight gain. Body fat percentage is a more discriminating risk factor for breast cancer incidence than the commonly used BMI,” the researchers concluded.

Lahmann and colleagues published the results of their study in the International Journal of Cancer (A prospective study of adiposity and postmenopausal breast cancer risk: The Malmo Diet and Cancer Study. Int J Cancer, 2003;103(2):246-252).

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