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Observational studies suggest that higher birth weight (BW) is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in adult life. We conducted a two-sample Mendelian randomisation (MR) study to assess whether this association is causal. Sixty independent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) known to be associated at P < 5 x 10-8 with BW were used to construct (1) a 41-SNP instrumental variable (IV) for univariable MR after removing SNPs with pleiotropic associations with other breast cancer risk factors and (2) a 49-SNP IV for multivariable MR after filtering SNPs for data availability. BW predicted by the 41-SNP IV was not associated with overall breast cancer risk in inverse-variance weighted (IVW) univariable MR analysis of genetic association data from 122,977 breast cancer cases and 105,974 controls (odds ratio = 0.86 per 500 g higher BW; 95% confidence interval: 0.73-1.01). Sensitivity analyses using four alternative methods and three alternative IVs, including an IV with 59 of the 60 BW-associated SNPs, yielded similar results. Multivariable MR adjusting for the effects of the 49-SNP IV on birth length, adult height, adult body mass index, age at menarche, and age at menopause using IVW and MR-Egger methods provided estimates consistent with univariable analyses. Results were also similar when all analyses were repeated after restricting to estrogen receptor-positive or -negative breast cancer cases. Point estimates of the odds ratios from most analyses performed indicated an inverse relationship between genetically-predicted BW and breast cancer. Thus, there is little evidence from MR to suggest that the previously observed association between higher BW and increased risk of breast cancer in adult life is causal.

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