Background risk of breast cancer and the association between physical activity and mammographic density

Thang Trinh, Mikael Eriksson, Hatef Darabi, Stephanie E Bonn, Judith S Brand, Jack Cuzick, Kamila Czene, Arvid Sjölander, Katarina Bälter, Per Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: High physical activity has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer, potentially by a mechanism that also reduces mammographic density. We tested the hypothesis that the risk of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years according to the Tyrer-Cuzick prediction model influences the association between physical activity and mammographic density.

METHODS: We conducted a population-based cross-sectional study of 38,913 Swedish women aged 40-74 years. Physical activity was assessed using the validated web-questionnaire Active-Q and mammographic density was measured by the fully automated volumetric Volpara method. The 10-year risk of breast cancer was estimated using the Tyrer-Cuzick (TC) prediction model. Linear regression analyses were performed to assess the association between physical activity and volumetric mammographic density and the potential interaction with the TC breast cancer risk.

RESULTS: Overall, high physical activity was associated with lower absolute dense volume. As compared to women with the lowest total activity level (<40 metabolic equivalent hours [MET-h] per day), women with the highest total activity level (≥50 MET-h/day) had an estimated 3.4 cm(3) (95% confidence interval, 2.3-4.7) lower absolute dense volume. The inverse association was seen for any type of physical activity among women with <3.0% TC 10-year risk, but only for total and vigorous activities among women with 3.0-4.9% TC risk, and only for vigorous activity among women with ≥5.0% TC risk. The association between total activity and absolute dense volume was modified by the TC breast cancer risk (P interaction = 0.05). As anticipated, high physical activity was also associated with lower non-dense volume. No consistent association was found between physical activity and percent dense volume.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that physical activity may decrease breast cancer risk through reducing mammographic density, and that the physical activity needed to reduce mammographic density may depend on background risk of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2015


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Density
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Human
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Sweden
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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