Birth weight and subsequent risk of cancer

Cassandra N. Spracklen, Robert B. Wallace, Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson, Jennifer G. Robinson, Jo L. Freudenheim, Melissa F. Wellons, Audrey F. Saftlas, Linda G. Snetselaar, Jo Ann E. Manson, Lifang Hou, Lihong Qi, Rowan T. Chlebowski, Kelli K. Ryckman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: We aimed to determine the association between self-reported birth weight and incident cancer in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study cohort, a large multiethnic cohort of postmenopausal women. Methods: 65,850 women reported their birth weight by category (<6. lbs, 6-7. lbs 15. oz, 8-9. lbs 15. oz, and ≥10. lbs). All self-reported, incident cancers were adjudicated by study staff. We used Cox proportional hazards regression to estimate crude and adjusted hazard ratios (aHR) for associations between birth weight and: (1) all cancer sites combined, (2) gynecologic cancers, and (3) several site-specific cancer sites. Results: After adjustments, birth weight was positively associated with the risk of lung cancer (. p=. 0.01), and colon cancer (. p=. 0.04). An inverse trend was observed between birth weight and risk for leukemia (. p=. 0.04). A significant trend was not observed with breast cancer risk (. p=. 0.67); however, women born weighing ≥10. lbs were less likely to develop breast cancer compared to women born between 6. lbs-7. lbs 15. oz (aHR 0.77, 95% CI 0.63, 0.94). Conclusion: Birth weight category appears to be significantly associated with the risk of any postmenopausal incident cancer, though the direction of the association varies by cancer type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-543
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Birth weight
  • Breast neoplasms
  • Colorectal neoplasms
  • Endometrial neoplasms
  • Leukemia
  • Lung neoplasms
  • Neoplasms
  • Ovarian neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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