We evaluated height as a potential risk factor for breast cancer in a case-control study of 747 young women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer before age 46 years and 961 control subjects recruited by random digit dialing. We found that total height attained did not affect a woman's risk of the disease. The age when a woman reached her maximum height, however, was a risk factor for breast cancer. There was a trend of decreasing risk of breast cancer in relation to increasing age of height attainment, culminating in a 30% reduction in the risk of breast cancer for women who reached their maximum height when they were 18 years or older compared with women who reached their maximum height when they were 13 years old or less (odds ratio = 0.7; 95% confidence interval = 0.5–1.0). Although the age at menarche was correlated with the age at maximum height, the effect of age at maximum height persisted after adjustment for age at menarche. Previous studies have reported that age at menarche is an important determinant of risk, but this study indicates that age when maximum height is reached may be another, and possibly more important, landmark of puberty that is related to breast cancer risk. The physiologic basis for this claim may lie in the influence on breast development of exposure to growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor during puberty, and on a decreased time between the end of puberty and a woman's first livebirth, both of which are believed to affect a woman's risk of breast cancer.
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