Physical Activity Reduces Breast Cancer Risk at Any
Age Says Study of Four Million Women
Age, nor size, nor geographical location alters the
benefits of physical exercise
March 20, 2014 A new study leaves little doubt
that physical exercise at least one hour per day - reduces the risk of
breast cancer for women of any age or size, regardless of where they
live. The researchers reviewed all the studies 37 published from
1987 to 2013 that included four million women. Those with the highest
level of physical activity reduced the risk by 12 percent.
The research was presented to the 9th European
Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-9) in Glasgow by Professor Mathieu Boniol,
Research Director at the International Prevention Research Institute,
"These are all the studies looking at the
relationship between physical exercise and breast cancer risk that have
been published to date, so we are confident that the results of our
analysis are robust," he said.
Although the results varied according to tumor
type, the overall message was encouraging, the researchers say.
There was an exception - in women taking hormone
replacement therapy (HRT), the protective effect of exercise seemed to
be cancelled out. But increased awareness of the side effects of HRT
means that its use is decreasing in a number of countries, and this
means that the beneficial effects of activity will most likely grow in
the years to come.
"Whether or not this will be the case is an
interesting question and deserves to be followed up at a later date,"
Physical activity is known to have a protective
role in other cancers, as well as in disorders such as cardiovascular
disease. Although the mechanisms for its effect are unclear, the results
are largely independent of body mass index (BMI), so the effect must be
due to more than weight control.
And the age at which sporting activity starts also
appears to be immaterial; the researchers found no indication that
breast cancer risk would decrease only when physical activity started at
a young age.
"Adding breast cancer, including its aggressive
types, to the list of diseases that can be prevented by physical
activity should encourage the development of cities that foster sport by
becoming bike and walk-friendly, the creation of new sports facilities,
and the promotion of exercise through education campaigns," Boniol said.
"This is a low cost, simple strategy to reduce the
risk of a disease that currently has a very high cost, both to
healthcare systems and to patients and their families. It is good news
both for individuals and for policy makers."
"These findings are important for all women,
irrespective of their age and weight, says Dr. Hilary Dobson, chair of
EBCC-9's national organizing committee and who is Clinical Lead of the
West of Scotland Breast Screening Service and the Lead Clinician of the
West of Scotland Cancer Advisory Network (WoSCAN).
Whilst the mechanism for the potentially
protective effect of physical activity remains unclear, the analysis,
which is presented here, provides women with a real impetus to increase
their physical activity by even modest increments.
This review seems to be telling us that the
resultant improvements in breast health can now be added to the other
established health benefits of physical activity."
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