Study Sees Link Between Breast Cancer, Adolescence

by Mentiga Fatiha | 10:21 PM in |

A study of more than 117,000 Danish women provides the most convincing evidence yet of a link between a girl's growth rate and her risk of developing breast cancer later in life, researchers said on Wednesday.

The study, published in Thursday's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, found that women who were tall and thin by the age of 14 and those who weighed a lot at birth were more likely to develop breast cancer.

Researchers in Copenhagen looked at height and weight measurements taken from 117,415 girls born between 1930 and 1975, which they obtained from school health records.

The Danish team found that high birth weight, rapid growth around the time of mammary gland development, being tall and having low body-mass-index during adolescence were independent risk factors for breast cancer.

Specifically, they determined that girls who were about 5-feet 6-inches tall (167.5 cm) by age 14 were 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer later in life than girls who were just under five feet (152 cm) tall at the same age.

The team also found that newborn girls who weighed more than 8-3/4 pounds (4 kg) were on average 17 percent more likely to develop the disease later in life than those who weighed about 5-1/2 pounds (2.5 kg).

In an editorial in the Journal, Karin Michels and Walter Willett of Harvard University said the study reinforces growing evidence that breast cancer may have its origins early in life.

``An association between the risk of breast cancer and the rate of growth during adolescence has been suggested previously, but these new data are the most convincing,'' the pair wrote, citing the considerable size and the unbiased source of the data used in the study.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Nearly 216,000 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer in 2004, and about 40,110 women will die from the disease this year. - Reuters

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