Skip to main content

BMI genotype and breast cancer risk

Sep. 29, 2016, 8:00 AM

Being overweight is associated with decreased risk of breast cancer before menopause and increased risk after menopause.

In a study published recently in PLOS Medicine, Wei Zheng, Ph.D., M.D., and colleagues investigate these contrasting associations.

They use data from 145,056 women, and a list of genetic variants found in genomic studies to be associated with BMI. Estimating each woman’s BMI based strictly on genotype, the team found that genetically predicted high BMI was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

“It is likely that genetically predicted BMI may be more closely related to body weight in early life, which is negatively associated with breast cancer risk. Measured high BMI later in life may be influenced primarily by environmental factors that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. For breast cancer prevention, the study provides evidence for lifestyle modification to reduce weight gain in adults,” Zheng said.

Vanderbilt researchers joining Zheng in the study include Yan Guo, Shaneda Warren Andersen, and Xiao-Ou Shu. Funding was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health (CA070867, CA160056).

Send suggestions for articles to highlight in Aliquots and any other feedback about the column to

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice