Reduced risk of breast cancer associated with recreational physical activity varies by HER2 status

Cancer Med. 2015 Jul;4(7):1122-35. doi: 10.1002/cam4.465. Epub 2015 Apr 27.


Convincing epidemiologic evidence indicates that physical activity is inversely associated with breast cancer risk. Whether this association varies by the tumor protein expression status of the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), or p53 is unclear. We evaluated the effects of recreational physical activity on risk of invasive breast cancer classified by the four biomarkers, fitting multivariable unconditional logistic regression models to data from 1195 case and 2012 control participants in the population-based Women's Contraceptive and Reproductive Experiences Study. Self-reported recreational physical activity at different life periods was measured as average annual metabolic equivalents of energy expenditure [MET]-hours per week. Our biomarker-specific analyses showed that lifetime recreational physical activity was negatively associated with the risks of ER-positive (ER+) and of HER2-negative (HER2-) subtypes (both Ptrend ≤ 0.04), but not with other subtypes (all Ptrend > 0.10). Analyses using combinations of biomarkers indicated that risk of invasive breast cancer varied only by HER2 status. Risk of HER2-breast cancer decreased with increasing number of MET-hours of recreational physical activity in each specific life period examined, although some trend tests were only marginally statistically significant (all Ptrend ≤ 0.06). The test for homogeneity of trends (HER2- vs. HER2+ ) reached statistical significance only when evaluating physical activity during the first 10 years after menarche (Phomogeneity = 0.03). Our data suggest that physical activity reduces risk of invasive breast cancers that lack HER2 overexpression, increasing our understanding of the biological mechanisms by which physical activity acts.

Keywords: Breast cancer; ER; HER2; PR; Triple-negative breast cancer; luminal A breast cancer; p53; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Risk*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Receptor, ErbB-2