Physical activity reduces breast cancer risk. Promoter hypermethylation of the tumor suppressor genes APC and RASSF1A, which is potentially reversible, is associated with breast cancer risk. We conducted a cross-sectional study in 45 women without breast cancer to determine the association of physical activity with promoter hypermethylation of APC and RASSF1A in breast tissue. We used quantitative methylation-specific PCR to test the methylation status of APC and RASSF1A, and questionnaires to assess study covariates and physical activity (measured in metabolic equivalent hours per week). In univariate analyses, the study covariate, benign breast biopsy number, was positively associated with promoter hypermethylation of APC (P = 0.01) but not RASSF1A. Mulitvariate logistic regression indicated that, although not significant, physical activities for a lifetime [odds ratio (OR), 0.57; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 0.22-1.45; P = 0.24], previous 5 years (OR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.34-1.12; P = 0.11), and previous year (OR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.43-1.22; P = 0.22) were inversely related to promoter hypermethylation of APC but not RASSF1A for all physical activity measures. Univariate logistic regression indicated that physical activities for a lifetime, previous 5 years, and previous year were inversely associated with benign breast biopsy number, and these results were approaching significance for lifetime physical activity (OR, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.16-1.01; P = 0.05) and significant for physical activity in the previous 5 years (OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.34-0.94; P = 0.03). The study provides indirect evidence supporting the hypothesis that physical activity is inversely associated with promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes, such as APC, in nonmalignant breast tissue.
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