The metabolic syndrome, characterized by abdominal obesity, high blood glucose levels, impaired glucose tolerance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Several studies have examined the association of the individual components of the metabolic syndrome with breast cancer; to date, however, no study has assessed the metabolic syndrome per se in relation to breast cancer risk. Furthermore, previous studies have relied only on baseline assessment of components of the syndrome. Therefore, we assessed the association of the metabolic syndrome with the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among women in the 6% sample of subjects in the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial and the 1% sample of women in the observational study who had repeated measurements of the components of the syndrome during follow-up. We used Cox proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the association of breast cancer risk with the presence of the metabolic syndrome, as well as its components, at baseline and in time-dependent analyses. After exclusion of women with diabetes, among 4,888 women with baseline measurements, 165 incident cases of breast cancer were ascertained over a median of 8 years of follow-up. The presence of the metabolic syndrome at baseline was not associated with altered risk. Of the individual components measured at baseline, diastolic blood pressure showed a borderline positive association with breast cancer. In time-dependent covariate analyses, however, certain scenarios indicated a positive association between the metabolic syndrome and breast cancer, due primarily to positive associations with serum glucose, serum triglycerides, and diastolic blood pressure.
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