Association of type and intensity of physical activity with plasma biomarkers of inflammation and insulin response

Dong Hoon Lee, Leandro Fórnias Machado de Rezende, José Eluf-Neto, Kana Wu, Fred K. Tabung, Edward L. Giovannucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several biological mechanisms linking physical activity with cancer have been proposed. However, the influence of specific components of physical activity (volume, type and intensity), and their interaction with adiposity and diet, on cancer-related biomarkers remain unclear. We used cross-sectional data on 7,219 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1992–1994) with C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL6), tumor necrosis factor alpha receptor 2 (TNFαR2), adiponectin, C-peptide and triglycerides/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio (TG/HDL). Details on physical activity, diet and adiposity were assessed by questionnaires. We used multivariable-adjusted linear regression analyses to estimate relative concentrations of biomarkers by physical activity. Total physical activity was favorably associated with all biomarkers in a fairly linear manner. Comparing the highest (63+ metabolic equivalent (MET)-hr/week) to the lowest (0-8.9 MET-hr/week) physical activity groups, the percent relative difference in concentration of biomarkers was −31% for CRP, −22% for IL6, −8% for TNFαR2, +9% for adiponectin, −22% for C-peptide, and −20% for TG/HDL. These differences were modestly attenuated after adjustment for adiposity. For the same total MET-hours of physical activity, the association was stronger for men engaging in both aerobic and resistance exercises compared to those engaging in aerobic only. However, no difference was found between those engaging in vigorous activities (≥20% of total MET-hours) compared to those who did smaller amount of vigorous activities. Physical activity showed similar associations for these biomarkers regardless of adiposity and dietary pattern. In conclusion, high physical activity, preferably aerobic plus resistance training, was associated with favorable cancer-related biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-369
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (UM1 CA167552, R01 HL35464, K99 CA207736, and R00 CA207736). LFMR receives a doctoral scholarship from Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), grants #2014/25614-4 and #2016/21390-0.

Funding Information:
Key words: physical activity, diet, adiposity, inflammation, insulin, interaction Abbreviations: BMI: body mass index; CRP: C-reactive protein; EDIH: empirical dietary index for hyperinsulinemia; EDIP: empirical dietary inflammatory pattern; EDIR: empirical dietary index for insulin resistance; HPFS: health professionals follow-up study; IL6: interleukin-6; MET: metabolic equivalent; TG/HDL: triglycerides/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio; TNFαR2: tumor necrosis factor alpha receptor 2 Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article. †Dong Hoon Lee and Leandro Fórnias Machado de Rezende contributed equally to this work Conflict of interest: The authors declared no conflicts of interest. Grant sponsor: National Institutes of Health; Grant numbers: K99 CA207736, R00 CA207736, R01 HL35464, UM1 CA167552; Grant sponsor: Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP); Grant numbers: #2014/25614-4, #2016/21390-0 DOI: 10.1002/ijc.32111 History: Received 13 Sep 2018; ; Accepted 19 Dec 2018; Online 7 Jan 2019 Correspondence to: Dong Hoon Lee, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Building 2, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02115, Tel.: 617-432-0166, Fax: 617-432-2435, E-mail:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 UICC

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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