Sedentary, healthy, young eumenorrheic women were randomized into an intervention of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise five times a week for approximately 16 weeks (n = 212), or into a usual-lifestyle sedentary control group (n = 179). Urinary levels of estrogens [estrone [E1], estradiol, and estriol] and nine estrogen metabolites were measured at baseline and at study end by liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. The ratios of 2-hydroxyestrone to 16α-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE1/16α-OHE1) and 2-OHE1 to 4-hydroxyestrone (2- OHE1/4-OHE1) were also calculated.
The exercise intervention resulted in significant increases in aerobic fitness and lean body mass and a significant decrease in percent body fat. For exercisers who completed the study (n = 165), 2-OHE1/16α-OHE1 increased significantly (P = 0.043), whereas E1 decreased significantly (P = 0.030) in control participants (n = 153). The change from baseline in 2-OHE1/16α-OHE1 was significantly different between groups (P = 0.045), even after adjustment for baseline values.
The exercise intervention resulted in a significant increase in the 2-OHE1/16α-OHE1 ratio but no differences in other estrogen metabolites or ratios.
Our results suggest that changes in premenopausal estrogen metabolism may be a mechanism by which increased physical activity lowers breast cancer risk.