Regular Exercise Late in Life Helps Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Article date: February 6, 2009
Exercising regularly comes with a long list of benefits. It improves your mood, strengthens your heart and lungs, and helps keep your weight in check. Regularly working up a sweat can also help prevent certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.
And it's never too late to start. Researchers at the German Cancer Center and the University Hospitals of Hamburg-Eppendorf asked 3464 breast cancer patients and 6657 women about their physical activity during 2 periods: from 30 to 49 years of age and after age 50. They found that the regular exercisers were less likely to be breast cancer patients and discovered that women who were more active later in life reduced their breast cancer risk to an even greater extent than women who exercised more in their 30s.
"Our advice to all women is therefore to stay or become physically active also in the second half of your life," says Associate Professor Dr. Karen Steindorf, one of the researchers involved in the study, known as the MARIE study. "You'll not only reduce your risk of breast cancer, but it has been proven that your bones, heart, and brain will benefit from it."
The researchers also looked to see whether there was any correlation between physical activity --or the lack of it – and breast cancer type. They found that women who were more active since age 50 were less likely to be diagnosed with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer than women who were less active since age 50.
They also discovered that this link held regardless of body mass index or weight gain. Based on this evidence, the researchers suspect that the risk reduction may be related to changes in hormonal pathways.
So, how much activity is enough? You don't need to be at the gym 24-7.
"It doesn't always have to be sports," says Steindorf. "In our calculations we have also taken account of activities such as gardening, cycling, or walking to the shops."
In one study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman's breast cancer risk by 18%. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more.
To reduce your risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity above normal activities 5 or more days a week.
Need workout ideas, especially during cold weather months? See Winter Weather Workouts.
Citation: "Physical Activity and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer: Effect Modification by Breast Cancer Subtypes and Effective Periods in Life." Published in the December 1, 2008 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 2008. First author: Martina E. Schmidt, Unit of Environmental Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.
Thank you for your feedback.