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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Mar;20(3):454-63. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0974. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Body size, physical activity, and risk of triple-negative and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Ave. N., M4-B402, P.O. Box 19024, Seattle, WA 98109-1024, USA.



Triple-negative breast cancer, characterized by a lack of hormone receptor and HER2 expression, is associated with a particularly poor prognosis. Focusing on potentially modifiable breast cancer risk factors, we examined the relationship between body size, physical activity, and triple-negative disease risk.


Using data from 155,723 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (median follow-up, 7.9 years), we assessed associations between baseline body mass index (BMI), BMI in earlier adulthood, waist and hip circumference, waist-hip ratio, recreational physical activity, and risk of triple-negative (n=307) and estrogen receptor-positive (ER+, n=2,610) breast cancers.


Women in the highest versus lowest BMI quartile had 1.35-fold (95% CI, 0.92-1.99) and 1.39-fold (95% CI, 1.22-1.58) increased risks of triple-negative and ER+ breast cancers, respectively. Waist and hip circumferences were positively associated with risk of ER+ breast cancer (Ptrend=0.01 for both measures) but were not associated with triple-negative breast cancer. Compared with women who reported no recreational physical activity, women in the highest activity tertile had similarly lower risks of triple-negative and ER+ breast cancers (HR=0.77; 95% CI, 0.51-1.13; and HR=0.85; 95% CI, 0.74-0.98, respectively).


Despite biological and clinical differences, triple-negative and ER+ breast cancers are similarly associated with BMI and recreational physical activity in postmenopausal women. The biological mechanisms underlying these similarities are uncertain and these modest associations require further investigation.


If confirmed, these results suggest potential ways postmenopausal women might modify their risk of both ER+ and triple-negative breast cancers.

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