BACKGROUND: The association between obesity and breast cancer (BC) has been extensively studied among US, European and Asian study populations, with often conflicting evidence. However, despite the increasing prevalence of obesity and associated conditions in Africa, the continent with the highest age-standardized BC mortality rate globally, few studies have evaluated this association, and none has examined in relation to molecular subtypes among African women. The current analysis examines the association between body composition, defined by body mass index (BMI), height, and weight, and BC by molecular subtype among African women.

METHODS: We estimated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for the association between measures of body composition and BC and molecular subtypes among 419 histologically confirmed cases of BC and 286 healthy controls from the Mechanisms for Established and Novel Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Women of Nigerian Descent (MEND) case-control study.

RESULTS: Higher BMI (aOR: 0.79; 95% CI: 0.67, 0.95) and weight (aOR: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.69, 0.98) were associated with reduced odds of BC in adjusted models, while height was associated with non-statistically significant increased odds of BC (aOR: 1.07, 95% CI: 0.90, 1.28). In pre/peri-menopausal, but not post-menopausal women, both higher BMI and weight were significantly associated with reduced odds of BC. Further, higher BMI was associated with reduced odds of Luminal A, Luminal B, and HER2-enriched BC among pre/peri-menopausal women, and reduced odds of triple-negative BC among post-menopausal women.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher BMI and weight were associated with reduced odds of BC overall and by molecular subtype among West African women. Larger studies of women of African descent are needed to definitively characterize these associations and inform cancer prevention strategies.

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Published in BMC Cancer, v. 21, issue 1, article no. 1051.

© The Author(s) 2021

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This research was specifically funded by National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Fogarty International Center (K01TW010271, T.A.).

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.