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Woman's Hips Might Indicate Daughter's Breast Cancer Risk

Wider hips mean more estrogen, bringing higher odds for the illness, researchers say

MONDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The size and shape of a woman's hips may affect her daughter's breast cancer risk, an international group of researchers report.

The study of 6,370 Finnish women found that breast cancer rates were nearly three times higher among those born to mothers with relatively wide hips, and nearly seven times higher among women born to mothers with wide hips who'd already given birth to one or more children.

A woman was more likely to develop breast cancer if her mother's intercristal diameter (the widest distance between the wing-like structures at the top of the hip bone) was more than 30 centimeters (11.8 inches). The risk of breast cancer was also higher if these wing-like structures were rounded, the team said.

Breast cancer risk was 2.5 times higher for daughters of women in whom the widest distance was more than three centimeters greater than the distance at the front, said the American, British and Finnish researchers.

The American members were from Oregon Health & Science University.

The researchers noted that wide, round hips indicate high sex hormone concentrations in mothers, which may, in turn, boost breast cancer risk in their daughters. They suggested that increased breast cancer risk is established in the first trimester of pregnancy, when an embryo's developing breast tissue is exposed to a mother's circulating sex hormones.

"Our findings support the hypothesis that wide round hips reflect high levels of sex hormone production at puberty, which persist after puberty and adversely affect breast development of the daughters in early gestation," the study authors wrote in the online edition of the American Journal of Human Biology.

They study also offers new insights into the link between breast cancer and nutrition, the team added.

"Mothers whose daughters developed breast cancer were of similar height to the other mothers," the researchers noted. "This suggests that they had similar nutrition through childhood. Our findings do not therefore indicate that good nutrition through childhood is linked to breast cancer in the next generation. But they do show that the pubertal growth spurt of girls, which reflects nutrition, is strongly associated with the risk of breast cancer in their daughters."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer risk.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Oregon Health & Science University, news release, Oct. 8. 2007

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