Mammographic density change with 1 year of aerobic exercise among postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial.

Research paper by Christy G CG Woolcott, Kerry S KS Courneya, Norman F NF Boyd, Martin J MJ Yaffe, Tim T Terry, Anne A McTiernan, Rollin R Brant, Rachel R Ballard-Barbash, Melinda L ML Irwin, Charlotte A CA Jones, Sony S Brar, Kristin L KL Campbell, Margaret L ML McNeely, Kristina H KH Karvinen, Christine M CM Friedenreich

Indexed on: 25 Mar '10Published on: 25 Mar '10Published in: Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology


The Alberta Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Prevention (ALPHA) Trial examined the influence of aerobic exercise on biological factors that are associated with breast cancer risk. Mammographic density, a secondary outcome, is reported here.The ALPHA Trial was a parallel group randomized controlled trial conducted between May 2003 and July 2007. Postmenopausal, sedentary women ages 50 to 74 years (n = 320) were evenly randomized to aerobic exercise (45 minutes, 5 days per week) or control (usual life-style) for 1 year. Dense fibroglandular tissue and nondense fatty tissue were measured from mammograms at baseline and 1 year using computer-assisted thresholding software for area measurements and a new technique that relies on the calibration of mammography units with a tissue-equivalent phantom for volumetric measurements.Nondense volume decreased in the exercise group relative to the control group (difference between groups = -38.5 cm(3); 95% confidence interval, -61.6 to 15.4; P = 0.001). Changes in total body fat accounted for this decrease. Changes in dense area and dense volume, measures that have previously been associated with breast cancer risk, were not significantly different between the groups (P > or = 0.26).Achieving changes in mammographic measures may require more exercise or a study population with higher baseline levels of sex hormones or a wider range of mammographic density. The data from this study, however, suggest that the protective effect of exercise on breast cancer risk may operate through a mechanism other than mammographic density.

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