Is breast pain greater in active females compared to the general population in the UK?

Nicola Brown, Emma Burnett, Joanna Claire Scurr

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Abstract

Cyclic and non-cyclic breast pain effect up to 60% of women, decreasing quality of life. Additionally, exercise-induced breast pain (thought to be caused by tension on breast skin and fascia during breast motion) is reported in up to 72% of exercising females. These forms of breast pain may be experienced concurrently; therefore it is hypothesised that this compound effect may cause higher breast pain prevalence and severity in active populations. This study investigated the prevalence and severity of breast pain in an active cohort, compared to a random cohort. A random sample of 234 UK females completed a self-administered survey reporting physical activity history, prevalence, severity and frequency of breast pain, breast support habits, bra satisfaction, occurrence of bra-related issues, and demographics. This sample was age-matched to a sample of active females (n = 234) from a cross-sectional survey of 1285 female marathon runners who completed a similar survey. Breast pain prevalence was significantly lower in the active cohort (32.1%) compared to the random cohort (43.6%), however, the severity and frequency of breast pain was similar in both cohorts. The active cohort undertook significantly more physical activity, were lighter, had greater nulliparous rates, greater adherence to sports bra use, but less adherence to professional bra fitting. With lower breast pain rates in the active cohort the hypothesis of a compound effect of multiple forms of breast pain causing an increase in prevalence and severity is rejected. The lower prevalence may be related to increased physical activity, reduced body mass and increased sports bra use. Sports bra use is already recommended in the literature for symptomatic women, however, this is the first study to report that increased physical activity and weight loss may be an appropriate life style choice to reduce the prevalence of breast pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-201
JournalThe Breast Journal
Volume22
Issue number2
Early online date14 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

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