Early life factors are important risk factors for breast cancer. The association between weight gain after age 18 and breast cancer risk is inconsistent across previous epidemiologic studies. To evaluate this association, we conducted a meta-analysis according to PRISMA guidelines and the established inclusion criteria. We performed a comprehensive literature search using Medline (Ovid), Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Library, and ClinicalTrials.gov to identify relevant studies published before June 3, 2022. Two reviewers independently reviewed the articles for final inclusion. Seventeen out of 4,725 unique studies met the selection criteria. The quality of studies was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS), and all were of moderate to high quality with NOS scores ranging from 5 to 8. We included 17 studies (11 case-control, 6 cohort) in final analysis. In case-control studies, weight gain after age 18 was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (odds ratio [OR] = 1.25; 95% CI = 1.07–1.48), when comparing the highest versus the lowest categories of weight gain. Menopausal status was a source of heterogeneity, with weight gain after age 18 associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women (OR = 1.53; 95% CI = 1.40–1.68), but not in premenopausal women (OR = 1.01; 95% CI = 0.92–1.12). Additionally, a 5 kg increase in weight was positively associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk (OR = 1.12; 95%CI = 1.05–1.21) in case-control studies. Findings from cohort studies were identical, with a positive association between weight gain after age 18 and breast cancer incidence in postmenopausal women (relative risk [RR] = 1.30; 95% CI = 1.09–1.36), but not in premenopausal women (RR = 1.06; 95% CI = 0.92–1.22). Weight gain after age 18 is a risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer, highlighting the importance of weight control from early adulthood to reduce the incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Breast cancer
  • Postmenopausal
  • Premenopausal
  • Weight gain


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