Adiposity, inflammation, and breast cancer pathogenesis in Asian Women

Neil M. Iyengar, I. Chun Chen, Xi K. Zhou, Dilip D. Giri, Domenick J. Falcone, Lisle A. Winston, Hanhan Wang, Samantha Williams, Yen Shen Lu, Tsu Hsin Hsueh, Ann Lii Cheng, Clifford A. Hudis, Ching Hung Lin, Andrew J. Dannenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Obesity is associated with white adipose tissue (WAT) inflammation in the breast, elevated levels of the estrogen biosynthetic enzyme, aromatase, and systemic changes that predispose to breast cancer development. We examined whether WAT inflammation and its associated systemic effects correlate with body fat levels in an Asian population where body mass index (BMI) is not an accurate assessment of obesity and cancer risk. We also investigated whether biologic differences could account for the greater proportion of premenopausal estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer in Asian versus Western countries. Breast WAT and fasting blood were prospectively collected from Taiwanese women undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer treatment. Body composition was measured in a subgroup using bioelectrical impedance analysis. WAT inflammation was defined by the presence of crown-like structures of the breast, which are composed of dead or dying adipocytes surrounded by macrophages. Findings were compared with U.S. Caucasian women. In the Taiwanese cohort (n = 72), breast WAT inflammation was present in 31 (43%) women and was associated with elevated BMI (P < 0.01) and increased levels of body fat (P < 0.01), C-reactive protein (P = 0.02), triglycerides (P < 0.01), insulin resistance scores (P = 0.04), and lower HDL cholesterol (P < 0.01). ER+ tumors were associated with greater body fat versus other subtypes (P = 0.03). Compared with U.S. Caucasians (n = 267), Taiwanese women had larger breast adipocytes despite lower BMI after adjusting for BMI and menopausal status (P = 0.01). A subclinical inflammatory state associated with increased adiposity and metabolic dysfunction could contribute to breast cancer pathogenesis in Asian women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-236
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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