Dose-dependent effect of aerobic exercise on inflammatory biomarkers in a randomized controlled trial of women at high risk of breast cancer

Jeremy S. Haley, Elizabeth A. Hibler, Shouhao Zhou, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Kathleen M. Sturgeon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Increased levels of inflammation are associated with many diseases, including cancer. Physical activity can lower breast cancer risk as well as levels of inflammation. The Women In Steady Exercise Research (WISER) Sister trial was a randomized controlled trial that investigated the effects of a dosed, moderate to vigorous, aerobic exercise intervention on levels of inflammation in premenopausal women who were at high risk of developing breast cancer. Methods: Participants were randomized to control (<75 minutes per week; 41 patients), low-dose exercise (150 minutes per week; 38 patients), or high-dose exercise (300 minutes per week; 37 patients) groups. The 5-menstrual cycles–long, home-based treadmill exercise intervention gradually increased in minutes per week and intensity up to a maximum of 80% of the age-predicted maximum heart rate. Blood was collected at baseline and at follow-up and assayed for chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2), interleukin 10 (IL-10), interleukin 12 (IL-12), and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α). Results: A linear dose-response relationship was observed for the proinflammatory biomarkers CCL2 (%Δ of −5.44% in the control group, −0.03% in the low-dose exercise group, and 1.54% in the high-dose exercise group), IL-12 (%Δ of −21.5% in the control group, 38.2% in the low-dose exercise group, and 25.8% in the high-dose exercise group,) and TNF-α (%Δ of −4.69% in the control group, 9.51% in the low-dose exercise group, and 15.7% in the high-dose exercise group) but not for the anti-inflammatory biomarker IL-10 (%Δ of 5.05% in the control group, 6.05% in the low-dose exercise group, and 10.6% in the high-dose exercise group). For IL-12 and TNF-α, the percentage change was significantly higher in the low-dose (IL-12: P <.001; and TNF-α: P =.01) and high-dose (IL-12: P <.001; and TNF-α: P <.001) exercise groups compared with the control group. Conclusions: Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise appeared to increase levels of proinflammatory biomarkers in a dose-dependent manner in a population of healthy women at high risk of developing breast cancer. The results of the current study suggest that for healthy premenopausal women, the mechanism of reduced breast cancer risk observed in physically active individuals may not be a result of reduced levels of inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2020



  • BRCA
  • aerobic exercise
  • biomarkers
  • breast cancer
  • inflammation
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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