Exercise lowers estrogen and progesterone levels in premenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer

D. A. Kossman, N. I. Williams, S. M. Domchek, M. S. Kurzer, J. E. Stopfer, K. H. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Experimental and clinical data support a role for estrogens in the development and growth of breast cancer, and lowered estrogen exposure reduces breast cancer recurrence and new diagnoses in high-risk women. There is varied evidence that increased physical activity is associated with breast cancer risk reduction in both pre-and postmenopausal women, perhaps via lowered estrogen levels. The purpose of this study was to assess whether exercise intervention in premenopausal women at increased breast cancer risk reduces estrogen or progesterone levels. Seven healthy premenopausal women at high risk for breast cancer completed a seven-menstrual-cycle study. The study began with two preintervention cycles of baseline measurement of hormone levels via daily first-morning urine collection, allowing calculation of average area under the curve (AUC) hormone exposure across the menstrual cycle. Participants then began five cycles of exercise training to a maintenance level of 300 min per week at 80-85% of maximal aerobic capacity. During the last two exercise cycles, urinary estradiol and progesterone levels were again measured daily. Total estrogen exposure declined by 18.9% and total progesterone exposure by 23.7%. The declines were mostly due to decreased luteal phase levels, although menstrual cycle and luteal phase lengths were unchanged. The study demonstrated the feasibility of daily urine samples and AUC measurement to assess hormone exposure in experimental studies of the impact of interventions on ovarian hormones. The results suggest value in exercise interventions to reduce hormone levels in high-risk women with few side effects and the potential for incremental benefits to surgical or pharmacologic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1687-1693
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


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