Self-experienced physical workload and risk of breast cancer

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Objectives. The association between the risk of breast cancer and the physical load of work was studied because physical activity may reduce breast cancer risk via hormonal mechanisms. Methods. Occupational physical activity was estimated from a self-determined rating [scale 1 (low)-5 (high)] of occupational physical load for 1800 randomly selected women born in 1930-1969. The medians of the ratings were used as occupation-specific indices of occupational physical activity. All 65 occupations with at least 5 ratings, covering 75% of the economically active female population in Finland, were included in further analyses. The occupation-specific numbers of observed and expected cases of breast cancer during 1971-1995 among women born in 1906-1945 (17986 cases) were grouped according to the index for occupational physical activity. Expected rates were calculated with the social-class-specific population and the entire Finnish female population as reference populations. The relative risks (RR) of breast cancer for categories 3-5, in comparison with categories 1-2 were calculated using Poisson regression models. The occupation-specific mean number of children and mean age at first childbirth were adjusted for. Results. The RR was lower for occupations in category 5 than for those in categories 1-4, especially in the youngest (25-39 years) age group (RR 0.51, 95% confidence interval 0.44-0.58). Adjustment for social class and reproductive factors raised the RR (95% confidence interval 0.56-0.74) for category 5 in different age strata, all the RR values still being statistically significant. Conclusions. The results support the hypothesis that occupational physical activity, if high enough, markedly reduces breast cancer risk.




Rintala, P. E., Pukkala, E., Paakkulainen, H. T., & Vihko, V. J. (2002). Self-experienced physical workload and risk of breast cancer. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 28(3), 158–162.

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