Page last updated: August 16, 2013
Cohort study of risk factors for breast cancer in post menopausal women

The present study assessed more than 800 potential risk factors to identify new predictors of breast cancer and compare the independence and relative importance of established risk factors.

Data were collected by the Women’s Health Initiative and included 147,202 women ages 50 to 79 who were enrolled from 1993 to 1998 and followed for 8 years. Analyses performed in 2011 and 2012 used the Cox proportional hazard regression to test the association between more than 800 baseline risk factors and incident breast cancer.

Baseline factors independently associated with subsequent breast cancer (in decreasing order of statistical significance) were breast aspiration, family history, age, weight, history of breast biopsies, estrogen and progestin use, fewer live births, greater age at menopause, history of thyroid cancer, breast tenderness, digitalis use, alcohol intake, white race, not restless, no vaginal dryness, relative with prostate cancer, colon polyps, smoking, no breast augmentation, and no osteoporosis. Risk factors previously reported that were not independently associated with breast cancer in the present study included socioeconomic status, months of breast feeding, age at first birth, adiposity measures, adult weight gain, timing of initiation of hormone therapy, and several dietary, psychological, and exercise variables. Family history was not found to alter the risk associated with other factors.

Alcohol consumption was assessed for different levels of consumption, with the hazard ratio being 1.04, 1.06 and 1.13 for a consumption of <1 drink per month, <1 drink per week, and 1 or more drinks per week respectively. None were statistically significant.

These results suggest that some risk factors not commonly studied may be important for breast cancer and some frequently cited risk factors may be relatively unimportant or secondary.

Source: Cohort study of risk factors for breast cancer in post menopausal women. Hartz AJ, He T. Health Services Research, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA. Epidemiol Health. 2013 Apr 30;35:e2013003. doi: 10.4178/epih/e2013003.
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