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PURPOSE: Physical activity may reduce the risk of some types of cancer in men. Biological mechanisms may involve changes in hormone concentrations; however, this relationship is not well established. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the associations of physical activity with circulating insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG, which modifies sex hormone activity), and total and free testosterone concentrations, and the extent these associations might be mediated by body mass index (BMI). METHODS: Circulating concentrations of these hormones and anthropometric measurements and self-reported physical activity data were available for 117,100 healthy male UK Biobank participants at recruitment. Objectively measured accelerometer physical activity levels were also collected on average 5.7 years after recruitment in 28,000 men. Geometric means of hormone concentrations were estimated using multivariable-adjusted analysis of variance, with and without adjustment for BMI. RESULTS: The associations between physical activity and hormones were modest and similar for objectively measured (accelerometer) and self-reported physical activity. Compared to men with the lowest objectively measured physical activity, men with high physical activity levels had 14% and 8% higher concentrations of SHBG and total testosterone, respectively, and these differences were attenuated to 6% and 3% following adjustment for BMI. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the associations of physical activity with the hormones investigated are, at most, modest; and following adjustment for BMI, the small associations with SHBG and total testosterone were largely attenuated. Therefore, it is unlikely that changes in these circulating hormones explain the associations of physical activity with risk of cancer either independently or via BMI.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Causes Control

Publication Date





1197 - 1212


Accelerometer, IGF-I, Physical activity, SHBG, Testosterone, UK Biobank, Biological Specimen Banks, Exercise, Humans, Male, Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin, Testosterone, United Kingdom