Strong and consistent evidence exists that physical activity reduces breast cancer risk by 10-25 %, and several proposed biologic mechanisms have now been investigated in randomized, controlled, exercise intervention trials. Leading hypothesized mechanisms relating to postmenopausal breast cancer include adiposity, endogenous sex hormones, insulin resistance, and chronic low-grade inflammation. In addition, other pathways are emerging as potentially important, including those involving oxidative stress and telomere length, global DNA hypomethylation, immune function, and vitamin D exposure. Recent exercise trials in overweight/obese postmenopausal women implicate weight loss as a mechanism whereby exercise induces favorable changes in circulating estradiol levels and other biomarkers as well. Still it is plausible that some exercise-induced biomarker changes do not require loss of body fat, whereas others depend on abdominal fat loss. We highlight the latest findings from randomized, controlled trials of healthy postmenopausal women, relating exercise to proposed biomarkers for postmenopausal breast cancer risk.
Keywords: Adiposity; Biomarkers; Biomechanisms; Breast cancer; Estrogen; Exercise; Physical activity; Postmenopausal women; Randomized trials; Sex hormones; Weight loss.