Cancer Causes & Control

, 22:1297 | Cite as

Lifetime physical activity and the incidence of proliferative benign breast disease

  • Michelle M. Jung
  • Graham A. Colditz
  • Laura C. Collins
  • Stuart J. Schnitt
  • James L. Connolly
  • Rulla M. Tamimi
Original paper



Exercise is a modifiable factor that is inversely related to risk for breast cancer. To determine if physical activity has a preventative effect on development of premalignant breast lesions, we examined the association between exercise and the incidence of proliferative benign breast disease.


In 1997, the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort reported levels of physical activity during adolescence and adulthood using a validated recall instrument. We followed 40,318 participants free from benign breast disease (BBD) or cancer prospectively for four years and confirmed 232 proliferative benign breast lesions by centralized pathology review. Cox proportional hazards models estimated the age-adjusted and multivariable-adjusted relative risks for physical activity and proliferative benign breast disease.


We observed a significant inverse association for walking and incidence of BBD, risk was reduced by 9% per hour of walking (95% CI 0% to 17%), (p trend = 0.05). Despite a small number of cases, risk of columnar cell lesions also suggested an inverse association with strenuous activity (RR for 4 or more hours of strenuous activity per week = 0.62; 0.31–1.22 compared to <1 h per week).


This study suggests that exercise may be inversely associated with the risk of developing proliferative benign breast disease, one of the earliest steps in the development of breast cancer.


Physical activity Premalignant breast diseases Benign breast disease Columnar cell lesions 



Public Health Service Grants CA046475, CA050385, SPORE in Breast Cancer CA089393, from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the American Cancer Society (to G. A. Colditz).

Supplementary material

10552_2011_9803_MOESM1_ESM.doc (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle M. Jung
    • 1
    • 5
  • Graham A. Colditz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Laura C. Collins
    • 3
  • Stuart J. Schnitt
    • 3
  • James L. Connolly
    • 3
  • Rulla M. Tamimi
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center and Department of SurgeryWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PathologyHarvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterBostonUSA
  4. 4.Channing Laboratory, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.St. LouisUSA

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