Obesity is a known risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer; it has been postulated that adipocytokines may mediate this association. We explored the relationship between three markers altered by obesity: leptin, adiponectin, and soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (sTNF-R2), an inflammatory marker, with breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. A nested case-control study of postmenopausal women was conducted within CLUE II, a prospective population-based cohort. Baseline plasma levels of leptin, adiponectin, and sTNF-R2 were assayed in 272 female breast cancer cases and 272 controls matched on age, date, and hour of blood draw. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate matched odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). sTNF-R2 and leptin were independently positively associated with breast cancer risk in adjusted models. The OR for breast cancer comparing the highest to lowest tertile was 2.44 (95% CI: 1.30-4.58) for sTNFR2 and 1.98 (95% CI: 1.20-3.29) for leptin. While higher levels of adiponectin were protective (OR for the lowest tertile = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.02-2.60), there was no dose response. A 20% reduction in the breast cancer risk associated with overweight/obesity was observed when sTNF-R2 alone was included in multivariable models. Including both sTNF-R2 and adiponectin in the models resulted in a 29% reduction in the OR. Adipocytokines and sTNF-R2 are important factors in the etiology of postmenopausal breast cancer due to adiposity. This study informs our understanding of the relationship between obesity, inflammation, and postmenopausal breast cancer and identifies potential biomarkers.
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