Racial and ethnic disparities in the impact of obesity on breast cancer risk and survival: A global perspective

Elisa V. Bandera, Gertraud Maskarinec, Isabelle Romieu, Esther M. John

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Obesity is a global concern, affecting both developed and developing countries. Although there are large variations in obesity and breast cancer rates worldwide and across racial/ethnic groups, most studies evaluating the impact of obesity on breast cancer risk and survival have been conducted in non-Hispanic white women in the United States or Europe. Given the known racial/ethnic differences in tumor hormone receptor subtype distribution, obesity prevalence, and risk factor profiles, we reviewed published data for women of African, Hispanic, and Asian ancestry in the United States and their countries of origin. Although the data are limited, current evidence suggests a stronger adverse effect of obesity on breast cancer risk and survival in women of Asian ancestry. For African Americans and Hispanics, the strength of the associations appears to be more comparable to that of non-Hispanic whites, particularly when accounting for subtype and menopausal status. Central obesity seems to have a stronger impact in African-American women than general adiposity as measured by body mass index. International data from countries undergoing economic transition offer a unique opportunity to evaluate the impact of rapid weight gain on breast cancer. Such studies should take into account genetic ancestry, which may help elucidate differences in associations between ethnically admixed populations. Overall, additional large studies that use a variety of adiposity measures are needed, because the current evidence is based on few studies, most with limited statistical power. Future investigations of obesity biomarkers will be useful to understand possible racial/ethnic biological differences underlying the complex association between obesity and breast cancer development and progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-819
Number of pages17
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


  • Africa
  • African American
  • Asian
  • Breast cancer
  • Central adiposity
  • Ethnicity
  • Hispanics
  • Obesity
  • Subtypes
  • Weight gain


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