Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 139, Issue 3, pp 851–861 | Cite as

Moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity across the life course and risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer

  • Lindsay C. Kobayashi
  • Ian Janssen
  • Harriet Richardson
  • Agnes S. Lai
  • John J. Spinelli
  • Kristan J. AronsonEmail author


Moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) reduces breast cancer risk, although the effects of MVPA in different settings across the life course and how they may differ by menopausal status are unclear. This gap was addressed using data from a case–control study of 1,110 incident breast cancer cases and 1,172 cancer-free controls, frequency matched by age, from Vancouver and Kingston, Canada. In Vancouver, cases were recruited from the British Columbia Cancer Registry and controls from the Screening Mammography Program of British Columbia and in Kingston cases and controls were recruited from a breast assessment center. Lifetime leisure-time, household, and occupational MVPA energy expenditures were assessed in an open-ended questionnaire and mean weekly metabolic equivalent hours (MET-h/week) were calculated for the age periods 12–17, 18–34, 35–49, and ≥50 years and for the total lifetime. Odds ratios were estimated separately for pre- and for post-menopausal women using unconditional logistic regression. Among post-menopausal women, each of >22.9 MET-h/week of mean lifetime leisure-time MVPA (equivalent to running for 3 h) and >61.1 MET-h/week of mean lifetime household MVPA (equivalent to 24 h of moderate household work) reduced breast cancer risk by 40 %, compared to 0 MET-h/week of each. The respective ORs were 0.63 (95 % CI 0.42–0.94) and 0.58 (95 % CI 0.43–0.79). Among post-menopausal women, leisure-time MVPA after age 35 was more strongly associated with reduced breast cancer risk than MVPA in early life, while household MVPA was associated with reduced risk at all adulthood age periods. The weekly volume of leisure-time MVPA required to reduce post-menopausal breast cancer risk was consistent with amount recommended in the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines for cancer prevention.


Physical activity Breast cancer Menopausal status Case–control Women 



Moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity


Molecular epidemiology of breast cancer


British Columbia




Metabolic equivalent


Odds ratio


Confidence interval



This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance. The authors thank Dr. Chris Bajdik for contributions to study design, Dr. Christine Friedenreich for permission to adapt the physical activity questionnaire, and Dr. Anne Grundy, Derrick Lee, and Dr. Matt Parkinson for assistance with data management. Lindsay Kobayashi was supported by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, and a studentship from the Queen’s University Terry Fox Foundation Training Program in Transdisciplinary Cancer Research in Partnership with CIHR.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsay C. Kobayashi
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Ian Janssen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Harriet Richardson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Agnes S. Lai
    • 4
  • John J. Spinelli
    • 4
  • Kristan J. Aronson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Public Health SciencesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Division of Cancer Care and EpidemiologyQueen’s Cancer Research InstituteKingstonCanada
  3. 3.School of Kinesiology and Health StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Cancer Control ResearchBritish Columbia Cancer AgencyVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Department of Epidemiology and Public HealthUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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