Relation of BMI and physical activity to sex hormones in postmenopausal women

Anne McTiernan, Lie Ling Wu, Chu Chen, Rowan Chlebowski, Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Francesmary Modugno, Michael G. Perri, Frank Z. Stanczyk, Linda Van Horn, C. Y. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


Objective: Levels of estrogen, androgen, and prolactin have been related to risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. However, the determinants of these hormone concentrations are not established. The purpose of this study was to examine correlates of endogenous sex hormones. Research Methods and Procedures: Associations among adiposity, physical activity, and diet and concentrations of estradiol, free estradiol, estrone, testosterone, free testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and prolactin were evaluated in 267 postmenopausal women randomly selected from the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. Results: In multiple regression analyses on log-transformed hormones, BMI was positively associated with estrone (β = 0.031, p < 0.001), estradiol (β = 0.048, p < 0.001), free estradiol (β = 0.062, p < 0.001), free testosterone (β = 0.017, p = 0.02), and prolactin (β = 0.012, p = 0.02) and negatively associated with SHBG (β = -0.02, p = 0.001). Total physical activity (metabolic equivalent tasks per week) was negatively associated with concentrations of estrone, estradiol, and androstenedione (β = -0.006, -0.007, and -0.005, respectively, all p ≤ 0.05). Using a composite variable of BMI and physical activity dichotomized by median values, women with high BMI/low physical activity had a mean estrone concentration of 28.8 pg/mL, compared with 24.1, 19.9, and 18.4 pg/mL for women with high BMI/high physical activity, low BMI/low physical activity, and low BMI/high physical activity, respectively (p trend < 0.001). Similar trends were observed for estradiol and free estradiol and, in inverse, for SHBG. Discussion: These associations may, in part, explain the positive associations between overweight/obesity and a sedentary lifestyle on breast cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1662-1677
Number of pages16
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Androgen
  • Estrogen
  • Exercise
  • Postmenopausal
  • Prolactin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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