Background: In addition to the established association between general obesity and breast cancer risk, central obesity and circulating fasting insulin and glucose have been linked to the development of this common malignancy. Findings from previous studies, however, have been inconsistent, and the nature of the associations is unclear.
Methods: We conducted Mendelian randomization analyses to evaluate the association of breast cancer risk, using genetic instruments, with fasting insulin, fasting glucose, 2-h glucose, body mass index (BMI) and BMI-adjusted waist-hip-ratio (WHRadj BMI). We first confirmed the association of these instruments with type 2 diabetes risk in a large diabetes genome-wide association study consortium. We then investigated their associations with breast cancer risk using individual-level data obtained from 98 842 cases and 83 464 controls of European descent in the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.
Results: All sets of instruments were associated with risk of type 2 diabetes. Associations with breast cancer risk were found for genetically predicted fasting insulin [odds ratio (OR) = 1.71 per standard deviation (SD) increase, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.26-2.31, p = 5.09 × 10-4], 2-h glucose (OR = 1.80 per SD increase, 95% CI = 1.3 0-2.49, p = 4.02 × 10-4), BMI (OR = 0.70 per 5-unit increase, 95% CI = 0.65-0.76, p = 5.05 × 10-19) and WHRadj BMI (OR = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.79-0.91, p = 9.22 × 10-6). Stratified analyses showed that genetically predicted fasting insulin was more closely related to risk of estrogen-receptor [ER]-positive cancer, whereas the associations with instruments of 2-h glucose, BMI and WHRadj BMI were consistent regardless of age, menopausal status, estrogen receptor status and family history of breast cancer.
Conclusions: We confirmed the previously reported inverse association of genetically predicted BMI with breast cancer risk, and showed a positive association of genetically predicted fasting insulin and 2-h glucose and an inverse association of WHRadj BMI with breast cancer risk. Our study suggests that genetically determined obesity and glucose/insulin-related traits have an important role in the aetiology of breast cancer.