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Big babies at risk from breast cancer

30th September 2008

Research has suggested that female babies who are bigger and heavier at birth may have an "increased risk" of breast cancer.

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A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reviewed 32 previous studies which involved over 600,000 women and said a baby's size at birth could determine 5% of breast cancer cases.

One hypothesis is that a large baby has had exposure to higher levels of oestrogen in the womb.

Professor Isabel dos Santos Silva looked at information about babies' birth weights, lengths and head circumferences. She found they were all associated with a higher danger of breast cancer.

A baby which weighed 0.5kg (1.1lb) more at birth had around a 7% increase in the danger of developing breast cancer.

The length a baby measured when she was born showed the most direct connection with the danger of breast cancer.

Women who measured over 51cm (20in) when they were born had a risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 80 of 11.5 in 100, in comparison to 10 in 100 for women who were less than 49cm (19.3in) at birth.

Professor dos Santos Silva said: "Little is known on how the pre-natal environment may affect breast cancer risk in later life. Further research is needed."

Dr Sarah Cant of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: "Breast cancer is a complex disease that can be influenced by many factors throughout a woman's life."

"We don't yet know what all of these factors are, so it is very interesting that birth size may be one of them."

 

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