Risk Factors for Specific Histopathological Types of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

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Risk factor associations for rare breast cancer variants are often imprecise, obscuring differences between tumor types. To clarify differences, we examined risk factors for 5 histological types of breast cancer in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Risk factor information was self-reported. We followed 192,076 postmenopausal women aged 50–71 years from 1995–1996 through 2006. During that time period, 5,334 ductal, 836 lobular, 639 mixed ductal-lobular, 216 mucinous, and 132 tubular breast cancers were diagnosed. Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals were estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression. Heterogeneity was evaluated using case-only logistic regression. The strongest differences were for menopausal hormone therapy (Pheterogeneity < 0.01) and age at first birth (Pheterogeneity < 0.01). Risk of tubular cancer in relation to current menopausal hormone therapy (for current use vs. never use, hazard ratio (HR) = 4.39, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.77, 6.96) was several times stronger than risk of other histological types (range of HRs, 1.39–1.75). Older age at first birth was unassociated with risk of mucinous (for ≥30 years vs. 20–24 years, HR = 0.62, 95% CI: 0.27, 1.42) or tubular (HR = 1.08, 95% CI: 0.51, 2.29) tumors, in contrast to clear positive associations with lobular (HR = 1.82, 95% CI: 1.39, 2.37) and mixed ductal-lobular (HR = 1.87, 95% CI: 1.39, 2.51) tumors. Differing associations for hormonal factors and mucinous and tubular cancers suggest etiologies distinct from those of common breast cancers.

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