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Body Mass Index and Risk of Second Cancer among Women with Breast Cancer

Heather Spencer Feigelson, PhD, MPHClara Bodelon, PhD, MSJ David Powers, MSRochelle E Curtis, MADiana S M Buist, PhD, MPHLene H S Veiga, PhDErin J Aiello Bowles, MPHAmy Berrington de Gonzalez, DPhilGretchen L Gierach, PhD, MPH

JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, djab053,



Breast cancer survivors are at increased risk for developing second primary cancers compared to the general population. Little is known about whether body mass index (BMI) increases this risk. We examined the association between BMI and second cancers among women with incident invasive breast cancer.


This retrospective cohort included 6,481 patients from Kaiser Permanente Colorado and Washington of whom 822 (12.7%) developed a second cancer (mean follow-up was 88.0 months). BMI at the first cancer was extracted from the medical record. Outcomes included: 1) all second cancers, 2) obesity-related second cancers, 3) any second breast cancer, and 4) estrogen receptor (ER)-positive second breast cancers. Multivariable Poisson regression models were used to estimate relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for second cancers associated with BMI adjusted for site, diagnosis year, treatment, demographic, and tumor characteristics.


The mean age at initial breast cancer diagnosis was 61.2 (standard deviation = 11.8) years. Most cases were overweight (33.4%) or obese (33.8%) and diagnosed at stage I (62.0%). In multivariable models, for every 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI, the risk of any second cancer diagnosis increased by 7% (RR = 1.07, 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.14); 13% (RR = 1.13, 95% CI = 1.05 to 1.21) for obesity-related cancers; 11% (RR = 1.11, 95% CI = 1.02 to 1.21) for a second breast cancer, and 15% (RR = 1.15, 95% CI = 1.04 to 1.27) for a second ER-positive breast cancer.


We observed a statistically significant increased risk of second cancers associated with increasing BMI. These findings have important public health implications given the prevalence of overweight and obesity in breast cancer survivors and underscore the need for effective prevention strategies.