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Adolescent and Young Adult Exposure to Physical Activity and Breast Density


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 8 - p 1515–1523
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318289a7f8

Purpose The objective of this study is to examine the role of early lifetime exposure to physical activity on magnetic resonance imaging-determined breast density measures.

Methods Associations of adolescent (high school (ages 14–17 yr) and early adulthood, post–high school (ages 18–21 yr) and past year) leisure-time physical activity, as well as a principal component score including all three estimates, were examined with percent dense breast volume (%DBV) and absolute dense breast volume (ADBV) in a cross-sectional analysis of 182 healthy women, ages 25–29 yr, enrolled in the Dietary Intervention Study in Children Follow-up Study (DISC06). Generalized linear mixed models were used to examine associations after adjustment for relevant covariates for the entire analytic sample. Analyses were repeated in nulliparous women and hormonal contraceptive nonusers.

Results Physical activity during high school and post-high school were not statistically significantly related to %DBV or ADBV in multivariable models. Past year physical activity was positively related to %DBV in the unadjusted and partially adjusted models (P < 0.001 and P = 0.01, respectively), which did not adjust for body mass index (BMI). After additional adjustment for childhood and early adulthood BMI, this association became nonstatistically significant. The relation between past year physical activity and ADBV was not statistically significant. These findings were similar in nonusers of hormonal contraceptives. No statistically significant relations were found in nulliparous women or between the principal component score and %DBV or ADBV.

Conclusion Results from this study are consistent with previous research suggesting that physical activity during adolescence and early adulthood is unrelated to breast density.

1Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Austin, TX; 2Dangeard Group, Mill Valley, CA; 3Division of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Austin, TX; 4Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; 5Department of Biostatistics, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE; 6Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa, IA; and 7Fox Chase Cancer Center; Philadelphia, PA

Address for correspondence: Kelley Pettee Gabriel, Ph.D., Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Austin Regional Campus, 1616 Guadalupe Street, Suite 6.300, Austin, TX 78701; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2012.

Accepted for publication January 2013.

© 2013 American College of Sports Medicine