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BACKGROUND: Previous studies suggest a protective role of physical activity in breast cancer risk, largely based on self-reported activity. We aimed to clarify this association by examining breast cancer risk in relation to self-reported physical activity, informed by accelerometer-based measures in a large subset of participants. METHODS: We analysed data from 47,456 premenopausal and 126,704 postmenopausal women in UK Biobank followed from 2006 to 2014. Physical activity was self-reported at baseline, and at resurvey in a subsample of 6443 participants. Accelerometer data, measured from 2013 to 2015, were available in 20,785 women. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by using multivariable-adjusted Cox regression. RESULTS: A total of 3189 cases were diagnosed during follow-up (mean = 5.7 years). Women in the top compared with the bottom quartile of self-reported physical activity had a reduced risk of both premenopausal (RR 0.75; 95% CI 0.60-0.93) and postmenopausal breast cancer (RR 0.87; 95% CI 0.78-0.98), after adjusting for adiposity. In analyses utilising physical activity values assigned from accelerometer measurements, an increase of 5 milli-gravity was associated with a 21% (RR 0.79; 95% CI 0.66-0.95) reduction in premenopausal and a 16% (RR 0.84; 95% CI 0.73-0.96) reduction in postmenopausal breast cancer risk. CONCLUSIONS: Greater physical activity is associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk, which appears to be independent of any association it may have on risk through its effects on adiposity.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





726 - 732


Accelerometry, Breast Neoplasms, Cohort Studies, Exercise, Female, Humans, Middle Aged, Postmenopause, Premenopause, Proportional Hazards Models, Prospective Studies, Risk, Self Report, United Kingdom