Early life adversity, reproductive history and breast cancer risk

Amy M. Boddy, Shawn Rupp, Zhe Yu, Heidi Hanson, Athena Aktipis, Ken Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Individuals who experience early life adversity are at an increased risk for chronic disease later in life. Less is known about how early life factors are associated with cancer susceptibility. Here, we use a life history framework to test whether early life adversity increases the risk of breast cancer. We predict that early life adversity can shift investment in somatic maintenance and accelerate the timing of reproduction, which may mediate or interact with the risk of breast cancer. Methodology: We use population-wide data from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) and Utah Cancer Registry, leading to 24957 cases of women diagnosed with breast cancer spanning 20 years (1990-2010) and 124785 age-matched controls. We generated a cumulative early life adversity summation score to evaluate the interaction (moderation) and mediation between early life adversity, reproductive history and their association with breast cancer risk. Results: Our analyses led to three key findings: (i) more early life adversity, when considered as a main effect, accelerates the time to first birth and death, (ii) early age at first birth and high parity decreases the risk of breast cancer and (iii) we find no association between early adversity and breast cancer risk either as a main effect or in its interaction with reproductive history. Conclusion and implications: Early adversity elevates the risk of overall mortality through mechanisms other than breast cancer risk. This suggests early life factors can generate different effects on health. Future work should incorporate more complex view of life history patterns, including multiple life stages, when making predictions about cancer susceptibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution, Medicine and Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • breast cancer
  • early life adversity
  • health disparity
  • life history
  • reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Early life adversity, reproductive history and breast cancer risk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this