Physical activity and risk of breast cancer overall and by hormone receptor status: The European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition

Karen Steindorf, Rebecca Ritte, Piia Piret Eomois, Annekatrin Lukanova, Anne Tjonneland, Nina Føns Johnsen, Kim Overvad, Jane Nautrup Østergaard, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Agnès Fournier, Laure Dossus, Birgit Teucher, Sabine Rohrmann, Heiner Boeing, Angelika Wientzek, Antonia Trichopoulou, Tina Karapetyan, Dimitrios Trichopoulos, Giovanna Masala, Franco BerrinoAmalia Mattiello, Rosario Tumino, Fulvio Ricceri, J. Ramõn Quirõs, Noémie Travier, María José Sánchez, Carmen Navarro, Eva Ardanaz, Pilar Amiano, H. B. Bueno-De-Mesquita, Franzel Van Duijnhoven, Evelyn Monninkhof, Anne M. May, Kay Tee Khaw, Nick Wareham, Tim J. Key, Ruth C. Travis, Kristin Benjaminsen Borch, Malin Sund, Anne Andersson, Veronika Fedirko, Sabina Rinaldi, Isabelle Romieu, Jürgen Wahrendorf, Elio Riboli, Rudolf Kaaks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physical activity is associated with reduced risks of invasive breast cancer. However, whether this holds true for breast cancer subtypes defined by the estrogen receptor (ER) and the progesterone receptor (PR) status is controversial. The study included 257,805 women from the multinational EPIC-cohort study with detailed information on occupational, recreational and household physical activity and important cofactors assessed at baseline. During 11.6 years of median follow-up, 8,034 incident invasive breast cancer cases were identified. Data on ER, PR and combined ER/PR expression were available for 6,007 (67.6%), 4,814 (54.2%) and 4,798 (53.9%) cases, respectively. Adjusted hazard ratios (HR) were estimated by proportional hazards models. Breast cancer risk was inversely associated with moderate and high levels of total physical activity (HR = 0.92, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.86-0.99, HR = 0.87, 95%-CI: 0.79-0.97, respectively; p-trend = 0.002), compared to the lowest quartile. Among women diagnosed with breast cancer after age 50, the largest risk reduction was found with highest activity (HR = 0.86, 95%-CI: 0.77-0.97), whereas for cancers diagnosed before age 50 strongest associations were found for moderate total physical activity (HR = 0.78, 95%-CI: 0.64-0.94). Analyses by hormone receptor status suggested differential associations for total physical activity (p-heterogeneity = 0.04), with a somewhat stronger inverse relationship for ER+/PR+ breast tumors, primarily driven by PR+ tumors (p-heterogeneity <0.01). Household physical activity was inversely associated with ER-/PR- tumors. The results of this largest prospective study on the protective effects of physical activity indicate that moderate and high physical activity are associated with modest decreased breast cancer risk. Heterogeneities by receptor status indicate hormone-related mechanisms. What's new? Physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, but whether this holds true for hormone receptor-positive cancers, the most common breast cancer subtypes, is controversial. In this analysis of more than 8,000 breast cancer cases, positive receptor status for estrogen and progesterone was inversely associated with moderate and high physical activity. While benefits were modest, the data suggest that the adoption of even moderate activity levels in high-risk populations could reduce breast cancer incidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1678
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2013


  • breast cancer
  • cohort study
  • estrogen receptor
  • etiology
  • physical activity
  • progesterone receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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