Is one body type more likely to develop breast cancer than another? In other words can we just look at a woman to assess her risk? Doctors believe that our height and body-mass index (BMI) both play a part in determining risk, but is this picture accurate? Could it be that the real risk factors are established at birth or puberty?
New research suggests that this is very much the case. A study has concluded that women at greater risk had a high birth weight, they grew quickly as children, were tall at the age of 14 and also, at that age, had a low BMI. Each of these is an independent factor, although being tall and having a low BMI at age 14 seemed to carry a higher risk than the other measures.
So how do researchers know this? A team from Copenhagen University monitored 117,415 Danish women, and included their birth weight and developmental details in the mix. Of these, 3,340 went on to develop breast cancer - and most fitted one or more of the profiles.
So, does it mean that you will get breast cancer if you were tall for your age at 14, for instance? Not at all, but it makes great sense to take seriously nutrition and other lifestyle factors that can also influence breast cancer risk.