BACKGROUND: Women with an advantaged socioeconomic position (SEP) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer (BC). The reasons for this association do not seem to be limited to reproductive factors and remain to be understood. We aimed to investigate the impact of lifecourse SEP from childhood and social mobility on the risk of BC considering a broad set of potential mediators. METHODS: We used a discovery-replication strategy in two European prospective cohorts, E3N (N = 83,436) and EPIC-Italy (N = 20,530). In E3N, 7877 women were diagnosed with BC during a median 24.4 years of follow-up, while in EPIC-Italy, 893 BC cases were diagnosed within 15.1 years. Hazard ratios (HR) were estimated using Cox proportional hazard models on imputed data. RESULTS: In E3N, women with higher education had a higher risk of BC (HR [95 = 1.21 [1.12, 1.30]). This association was attenuated by adjusting for reproductive factors, in particular age at first childbirth (HR[95 = 1.13 [1.04, 1.22]). Health behaviours, anthropometric variables, and BC screening had a weaker effect on the association. Women who remained in a stable advantaged SEP had a higher risk of BC (HR [95 = 1.24 [1.07; 1.43]) attenuated after adjustment for potential mediators (HR [95 = 1.13 [0.98; 1.31]). These results were replicated in EPIC-Italy. CONCLUSIONS: These results confirm the important role of reproductive factors in the social gradient in BC risk, which does not appear to be fully explained by the large set of potential mediators, including cancer screening, suggesting that further research is needed to identify additional mechanisms.
- Breast cancer
- Lifecourse socio-economic position
- Prospective cohorts
- Social mobility