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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Breast Cancer Research 1/2018

Breast cancer risk factors, survival and recurrence, and tumor molecular subtype: analysis of 3012 women from an indigenous Asian population

Breast Cancer Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Mustapha Abubakar, Hyuna Sung, Devi BCR, Jennifer Guida, Tieng Swee Tang, Ruth M. Pfeiffer, Xiaohong R. Yang



Limited evidence, mostly from studies in Western populations, suggests that the prognostic effects of lifestyle-related risk factors may be molecular subtype-dependent. Here, we examined whether pre-diagnostic lifestyle-related risk factors for breast cancer are associated with clinical outcomes by molecular subtype among patients from an understudied Asian population.


In this population-based case series, we evaluated breast cancer risk factors in relation to 10-year all-cause mortality (ACM) and 5-year recurrence by molecular subtype among 3012 women with invasive breast cancer in Sarawak, Malaysia. A total of 579 deaths and 314 recurrence events occurred during a median follow-up period of ~ 24 months. Subtypes (luminal A-like, luminal B-like, HER2-enriched, triple-negative) were defined using immunohistochemical markers for hormone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) in conjunction with histologic grade. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the associations between risk factors and ACM/recurrence were estimated in subtype-specific Cox regression models.


We observed heterogeneity in the relationships between parity/breastfeeding, age at first full-term pregnancy (FFP), family history, body mass index (BMI), and tumor subtype (p value < 0.05). Among luminal A-like patients only, older age at menarche [HR (95% CI) ≥15 vs ≤ 12 years = 2.28 (1.05, 4.95)] and being underweight [HRBMI < 18.5kg/m2 vs. 18.5–24.9kg/m2 = 3.46 (1.21, 9.89)] or overweight [HR25–29.9kg/m2 vs. 18.5–24.9kg/m2 = 3.14 (1.04, 9.50)] were associated with adverse prognosis, while parity/breastfeeding [HRbreastfeeding vs nulliparity = 0.48 (0.27, 0.85)] and older age at FFP [HR > 30 vs < 21 years = 0.20 (0.04, 0.90)] were associated with good prognosis. For these women, the addition of age at menarche, parity/breastfeeding, and BMI, provided significantly better fit to a prognostic model containing standard clinicopathological factors alone [LRχ2 (8df) = 21.78; p value = 0.005]. Overall, the results were similar in relation to recurrence.


Our finding that breastfeeding and BMI were associated with prognosis only among women with luminal A-like breast cancer is consistent with those from previously published data in Western populations. Further prospective studies will be needed to clarify the role of lifestyle modification, especially changes in BMI, in improving clinical outcomes for women with luminal A-like breast cancer.
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