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Keywords:

  • cohort study;
  • breast cancer;
  • risk factors;
  • age at diagnosis

Abstract

An increasing number of studies indicates that the strength and even direction of association between breast cancer and established risk factors differ according to the woman's age when she develops the disease. This was studied in the setting of a population based cancer registry using a databank with information on age at menarche, parity, age at first birth, oral contraceptive (OC) use, lactation, height and weight. From a cohort of 80.219 women attending population-based cervical and breast cancer screening in Iceland, 1120 cases were identified, aged 26–90 years at diagnosis and 10,537 controls, individually matched to the cases on birth year and age when attending. Information given at last visit before diagnosis was used in the analysis, applying conditional logistic regression. Odds ratios and statistical strength of relationships varied according to age at diagnosis for age at first birth, number of births, duration of lactation, height and weight. The decreased risk associated with young age at first birth and increasing duration of breast feeding became less pronounced with advancing age at diagnosis. A reduced risk associated with an increasing number of births was not detected in women diagnosed under the age of 40. An increased risk associated with giving first birth after 30 years of age was mainly detected in women who had only given 1 birth and were diagnosed under the age of 40 (OR = 7.06 95% CI = 2.16–23.01). A positive association with height and especially with weight was confined to women diagnosed after the age of 55. The results confirm that age at diagnosis should be taken into account when studying the effects of breast cancer risk factors. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.