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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 906495, 19 pages
Review Article

Role of Obesity in the Risk of Breast Cancer: Lessons from Anthropometry

1Nutritional Epidemiology Group, Nutrition and Metabolism Section, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon Cedex 08, France
2International Prevention Research Institute, 95 Cours Lafayette, 69006 Lyon, France

Received 9 October 2012; Accepted 29 November 2012

Academic Editor: Dagrun Engeset

Copyright © 2013 Amina Amadou et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


An estimated 1.38 million new cases of breast cancer (BC) are diagnosed each year in women worldwide. Of these, the majority are categorized as invasive ductal cell carcinoma. Subgroups of BC are frequently distinguished into five “intrinsic” subtypes, namely, luminal A, luminal B, normal-like, HER2-positive, and basal-like subtypes. Epidemiological evidence has shown that anthropometric factors are implicated in BC development. Overall consistent positive associations have been observed between high body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and the risk of BC among postmenopausal women, while conflicting results persist for premenopausal BC, both for BMI and for other anthropometric parameters as well as across ethnic groups. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that body size, body shape, and weight gain during childhood or adolescence may play a role in the risk of BC. In this paper, we describe the evidence linking anthropometric indices at different ages and BC risk, in order to improve our understanding of the role of body fat distribution in the risk of BC, investigate differences in these associations according to menopausal status and ethnic groups, and discuss the potential biological mechanisms linking body size and BC risk.