Recreational Physical Activity Is Associated with Reduced Breast Cancer Risk in Adult Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer: A Cohort Study of Women Selected for Familial and Genetic Risk

Cancer Res. 2020 Jan 1;80(1):116-125. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-1847. Epub 2019 Oct 2.


Although physical activity is associated with lower breast cancer risk for average-risk women, it is not known if this association applies to women at high familial/genetic risk. We examined the association of recreational physical activity (self-reported by questionnaire) with breast cancer risk using the Prospective Family Study Cohort, which is enriched with women who have a breast cancer family history (N = 15,550). We examined associations of adult and adolescent recreational physical activity (quintiles of age-adjusted total metabolic equivalents per week) with breast cancer risk using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression, adjusted for demographics, lifestyle factors, and body mass index. We tested for multiplicative interactions of physical activity with predicted absolute breast cancer familial risk based on pedigree data and with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation status. Baseline recreational physical activity level in the highest four quintiles compared with the lowest quintile was associated with a 20% lower breast cancer risk (HR, 0.80; 95% confidence interval, 0.68-0.93). The association was not modified by familial risk or BRCA mutation status (P interactions >0.05). No overall association was found for adolescent recreational physical activity. Recreational physical activity in adulthood may lower breast cancer risk for women across the spectrum of familial risk. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings suggest that physical activity might reduce breast cancer risk by about 20% for women across the risk continuum, including women at higher-than-average risk due to their family history or genetic susceptibility.See related commentary by Niehoff et al., p. 23.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors