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Study: Breast Cancer Risk Reduced by Exercise
- Updated: August 11, 2014
Researchers discovered that regular exercise can cut the odds of breast cancer for postmenopausal women. But, if that physical activity if not continuous the protections don’t last.
At least one expert wasn’t surprised. The chief of the division of breast surgery at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt hospitals in New York City, Dr. Alison Estabrook, said, “As a breast surgeon, one of my roles is to discuss prevention strategies for women. Exercise is certainly one prevention strategy I discuss for many reasons, and this study emphasizes the importance of physical activity and of its continuation in the postmenopausal years.”
The study, led by Agnes Fournier with the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, tracked the progressive of 59,000 postmenopausal women in France. The women were followed for an average of 8.5 years. During that time period, over 2,100 of the subjects were diagnosed with primary invasive breast cancer.
The women who has done the equivalent of at least four hours of walking or cycling per week in the prior four years were found to be 10% less likely to receive a breast cancer diagnosis than those who exercised less.
The reduction in breast cancer as a result of regular exercise was completely independent of other factors such as body fat, weight, waist circumference, or exercise in the 4-9 years prior to the study. The study was published August 11th in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Fournier said in a news release by the journal, “Physical activity is thought to decrease a woman’s risk for breast cancer after menopause. However, it was not clear how rapidly this association is observed after regular physical activity is begun or for how long it lasts after regular exercise stops.”
She continues, “Our study answers these questions. We found that recreational physical activity, even of modest intensity, seemed to have a rapid impact on breast cancer risk. “But, she noted that the effect quickly diminished when exercise stopped and cautioned that “post-menopausal women who exercise should be encouraged to continue.”
According to Fournier the study also showed that the exercise doesn’t even need to be strenuous or very frequent, as much as a 30 minute walk every day can see a decreased risk.
The chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, Dr. Stephanie Bernik, said that the study “gives us more evidence that indeed, exercise is one way post-menopausal women can reduce their risk of invasive breast cancers.”
One thing that the study could not do, however, was prove a definitive cause and effect since, Bernik says “the exact reason for the decreased risk is not known – perhaps these women lived a healthier lifestyle overall.”
But Bernik reiterated that regardless of the cause and effect, adding routine exercise to one’s life not only improves health but decreases a woman’s cancer risk.