Anthropometrics, body shape over 12 years and risk of cancer events in pre- and post-menopausal women

Guy Fagherazzi, Alice Vilier, Beverley Balkau, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon*, Dianna J. Magliano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of anthropometry and cancer have focused on body mass index (BMI). Relations between weight, waist (WC) and hip circumferences (HC), birth length and adult height with cancer are less well studied. Women from the French E3N study, born between 1925 and 1950, were followed biennially from 1995 until 2008. Body shape was classed into four groups based on median WC and HC at baseline. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated by Cox proportional hazards regression models. Over the 12 years of follow-up, 7,247 of 63,798 women developed cancer. As WC increased, we found a trend for decreasing cancer risk in pre-menopausal women, which reversed to an increasing risk in post-menopausal women. This remained unchanged after further adjustment for HC /or height [HR: 0.72 (0.52-1.00) before menopause and 1.17 (1.04-1.31) in the 5th vs. 1st quintile of HC], and were similar after exclusion of breast cancer. We showed that large body shape decreased cancer risk before menopause and increased it after [HR: 0.87 (0.73-1.02) and 1.11 (1.04-1.17), respectively, in women with large waist and hips compared to small waist and hips]. Adult height was associated with an non-significant increase in cancer in pre-menopause and a significant cancer risk in menopause, independent of other anthropometric characteristics [5th vs. 1st quintile [HR: 1.24 (0.98-1.56) and 1.20 (1.10-1.30)], respectively as was long birth length in post-menopausal women [HR: 1.18 (1.07-1.30) compared to medium birth length]. These results suggest independent roles of height and WC on cancer risk, through different pathways. What's new? The relationship between body fat and cancer risk has been well studied, usually focusing on body-mass index (BMI). However, the relationship may not be that simple. In this study, the authors found that height and waist circumference correlated with cancer risk, but if these factors were adjusted for, BMI did not. Height was associated with increased risk regardless of menopausal status. Waist circumference was associated with decreased risk before menopause, but this changed to an increased risk after menopause. The authors conclude that height and waist circumference play significant and independent roles in cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-748
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • anthropometrics
  • birth length
  • body shape
  • cancer
  • hip circumference
  • waist circumference
  • weight


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