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Body size is an important modifiable risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer. However, it remains unclear whether direct measures of fat mass are better indicators of risk than anthropometric measures, or whether central adiposity may contribute to risk beyond overall adiposity. We analyzed data from 162,691 postmenopausal women in UK Biobank followed from 2006 to 2014. Body size was measured by trained technicians. Multivariable-adjusted Cox regression was used to estimate relative risks. Analyses were stratified by age at recruitment, region and socioeconomic status, and adjusted for family history of breast cancer, age at menarche, age at first birth, parity, age at menopause, previous hormone replacement therapy use, smoking, alcohol intake, height, physical activity and ethnicity. We observed 2,913 incident invasive breast cancers during a mean 5.7 years of follow-up. There was a continuous increase in risk of postmenopausal breast cancer with increasing adiposity, across all measures. The point estimate, comparing women in the top (median 37.6 kg) to bottom (median 17.6 kg) quartile of body fat mass was 1.70 (95% confidence interval 1.52-1.90). The magnitudes of the associations between per SD increase in BMI and body fat mass with breast cancer risk were similar, suggesting impedance measures of fat were not substantially better indicators of risk than anthropometric measures. After adjusting for body fat mass, the associations between anthropometric measures of central adiposity and breast cancer risk were attenuated. The magnitude of risk, across all measures of adiposity, was greater in women who had been postmenopausal for 12 or more years.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Cancer

Publication Date





1037 - 1046


UK Biobank, adiposity, bioelectrical impedance, breast cancer, obesity, Adiposity, Adult, Aged, Biological Specimen Banks, Body Mass Index, Breast Neoplasms, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Middle Aged, Obesity, Postmenopause, Prognosis, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Waist-Hip Ratio