Studies suggest that adiposity in childhood may reduce the risk of breast cancer in later life. The biological mechanism underlying this effect is unclear but is likely to be independent of body size in adulthood. Using a Mendelian randomization framework, we investigate 18 hypothesised mediators of the protective effect of childhood adiposity on later-life breast cancer, including hormonal, reproductive, physical, and glycaemic traits. Our results indicate that, while most of the hypothesised mediators are affected by childhood adiposity, only IGF-1 (OR: 1.08 [1.03: 1.15]), testosterone (total/free/bioavailable ~ OR: 1.12 [1.05: 1.20]), age at menopause (OR: 1.05 [1.03: 1.07]), and age at menarche (OR: 0.92 [0.86: 0.99], direct effect) influence breast cancer risk. However, multivariable Mendelian randomization analysis shows that the protective effect of childhood body size remains unaffected when accounting for these traits (ORs: 0.59-0.67). This suggests that none of the investigated potential mediators strongly contribute to the protective effect of childhood adiposity on breast cancer risk individually. It is plausible, however, that several related traits could collectively mediate the effect when analysed together, and this work provides a compelling foundation for investigating other mediating pathways in future studies.
© 2022. The Author(s).