November 3, 2008

Vigorous Physical Activity Lowers Risk of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer


Vigorous Physical Activity Lowers Risk of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer

Women who engage in vigorous physical activity can significantly lower their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. These results were recently published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in approximately 200,000 women annually in the United States. Due to its prevalence, a reduction in the incidence of breast cancer remains an important consideration, particularly if development of the disease can be reduced with healthy lifestyle changes. Prior studies have demonstrated that body weight, physical activity, and diet are all associated with the incidence of breast cancer. Researchers continue to evaluate these variables and their association with breast cancer.

Researchers affiliated with the National Cancer Institute recently conducted a clinical study to further evaluate the effects of physical exercise on the incidence of breast cancer. This study included 32,269 women who had enrolled in the Breast Cancer Demonstration Project Follow-up Study. Participants completed questionnaires on their level of physical activity: non-vigorous physical activity included light housework, walking, easy jogging, and leisure activities while vigorous physical activity included activities such as running, chopping wood, or scrubbing floors. At 11 years follow-up, the following results were observed:

  • Overall, women who were engaged in vigorous exercise had a 13% reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Among women who were considered lean, the risk of breast cancer was nearly 30% lower among those who participated in vigorous exercise compared with other study participants.
  • Non-vigorous exercise did not appear to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • For women who were overweight or obese, neither vigorous nor non-vigorous exercise reduced their risk of breast cancer.

The researchers concluded that vigorous exercise appears to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women who are considered to have normal or lean bodyweight. The researchers stated that future studies may be warranted to understand the underlying reasons for this reduction in risk.

Reference: Leitzmann M, et al. Prospective study of physical activity and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.? Breast Cancer Research [early online publication]. October 2008. DOI: 10.1186/bcr2190

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Screening/Prevention Breast Cancer, Uncategorized