The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Age at menopause and breast cancer risk

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Women who go through menopause later in life have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who go through menopause earlier.

A pooled analysis of data from 117 studies looked at the age at menopause and breast cancer risk. For every year older a woman was when she entered menopause, breast cancer risk increased by about 3 percent [1].

Learn more about age at menopause and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer.

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 100 breast cancer cases and pooled analyses.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.

Study

Study Population
(number of
participants)

Follow-up
(years)

Age Categories Compared

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with Later Menopause Compared to Women with Earlier Menopause
RR (95% CI)

Prospective cohort studies

NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study [2]

190,872
(4,549 cases)

9

55 or older vs.
50-54

1.19 (1.09-1.30)

PLCO Cancer Screening Trial Cohort [3]

70,575
(2,085 cases)

5

55 or older vs.
younger than 45

1.29
(1.03-1.62)

Nurses’ Health Study [4]

58,520
(1,761 cases)

14

55 vs. 45

1.44
(1.26-1.64)

E3N cohort study-France [5]

91,260
(1,718 cases)

6*

50-54 vs.
younger than 40

1.67
(1.01-2.76)

 

 

 

55 or older
vs.
younger than 40

2.25
(1.31-3.87)

EPIC cohort [6]

144,668
(1,262 cases)

11

55 or older
vs.
48 or younger

1.17
(0.95-1.44)†

Horn et al. [7]

20,398
(808 cases)

20*

50-54
vs.
younger than 45

Among women ages 55-69 at diagnosis:
1.26 (0.80-1.98)

Among women ages 70 and older at diagnosis:
1.21 (0.92-1.59)

   

55 or older
vs.
younger than 45

Among women ages 55-69 at diagnosis:
1.38 (0.87-2.19)

Among women ages 70 and older at diagnosis:
1.44 (1.10-1.90)

   

45-49
vs.
younger than 45

Among women ages 55-69 at diagnosis:
2.16 (0.95-4.89)

Among women ages 70 and older at diagnosis:
1.68 (1.08-2.61)

Iowa Women’s Health Study [8]

36,658
(561 cases)

16

50 or older
vs.
younger than 49

1.26
(1.06-1.49)‡

Dutch DOM cohort [9]

10,591
(485 cases)

19

55 or older
vs.
44 or younger

1.52Sig

Mertens et al. [10]

7,994
(342 cases)

13

50 or older
vs.
44 or younger

1.25
(0.91-1.71)

Japan Public Health-based Prospective Study [11]

32,440
(228 cases)

10

54 or older vs.
younger than 48

1.98
(1.12-3.52)

De Stavola et al. [12]

6,706
(168 cases)

10-21

Older than 51 vs.
younger than 49

3.2
(1.5-6.9)

Pooled analyses

CGHFBC [13]

161,116
(52,705 cases)

 

55 vs. 45

1.2Sig

Sig = Statistically significant

* Follow-up time is estimated from person-years.

† Results are for hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. Results for hormone receptor-negative breast cancers were similar, 1.03 (0.69-1.54).

‡ Results are for women aged 75-84 at diagnosis.

References

  1. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Menarche, menopause, and breast cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis, including 118 964 women with breast cancer from 117 epidemiological studies. Lancet Oncol. 13(11):1141-51, 2012.
  2. Brinton LA, Smith L, Gierach GL, et al. Breast cancer risk in older women: results from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Cancer Causes Control. 25(7):843-57, 2014.
  3. Lacey JV Jr, Kreimer AR, Buys SS, et al. for the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial Project Team. Breast cancer epidemiology according to recognized breast cancer risk factors in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial Cohort. BMC Cancer. 17;9:84, 2009.
  4. Colditz GA and Rosner B. Cumulative risk of breast cancer to age 70 years according to risk factor status: data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 152(10):950-64, 2000.
  5. Clavel-Chapelon F, E3N Group. Cumulative number of menstrual cycles and breast cancer risk: results from the E3N cohort study of French women. Cancer Causes Control. 13(9):831-8, 2002.
  6. Ritte R, Tikk K, Lukanova A, et al. Reproductive factors and risk of hormone receptor positive and negative breast cancer: a cohort study. BMC Cancer. 13:584, 2013.
  7. Horn J, Asvold BO, Opdahl S, Tretli S, Vatten LJ. Reproductive factors and the risk of breast cancer in old age: a Norwegian cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 139(1):237-43, 2013.
  8. Sweeney C, Blair CK, Anderson KE, et al. Risk factors for breast cancer in elderly women. Am J Epidemiol. 160(9):868-75, 2004.
  9. Monninkhof EM, van der Schouw YT, Peeters PHM. Early age at menopause and breast cancer: are leaner women more protected? A prospective analysis of the Dutch DOM cohort. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 55:285-291, 1999.
  10. Mertens AJ, Sweeney C, Shahar E, et al. Physical activity and breast cancer incidence in middle-aged women: a prospective cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 97(2):209-14, 2006.
  11. Iwasaki M, Otani T, Inoue M, Sasazuki S, Tsugane S for the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study Group. Role and impact of menstrual and reproductive factors on breast cancer risk in Japan. Eur J Cancer Prev. 16(2):116-23, 2007.
  12. De Stavola BL, Wang DY, Allen DS, et al. The association of height, weight, menstrual and reproductive events with breast cancer: results from two prospective studies on the island of Guernsey (United Kingdom). Cancer Causes Control. 4(4):331-340, 1993.
  13. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy: collaborative reanalysis of data from 51 epidemiological studies of 52,705 women with breast cancer and 108,411 women without breast cancer. Lancet. 11;350(9084):1047-59, 1997.  

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