Walking Linked To Lowering Your Risk For Breast Cancer

by December 5, 2013

Recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention a large study found that walking was linked to a lower risk for breast cancer in women who have gone through menopause.

The study adds to a growing pile of evidence linking regular exercise with lowering the risk of breast cancer in women.

In their analysis of over 70,000 postmenopausal women, American Cancer Society (ACS) researchers also found that walking was linked to lower breast cancer risk regardless of whether the women were overweight or obese or gained weight during the study period of seventeen years.

The link between exercise and lower risk of cancer also appeared to be independent of whether or not the women took hormone therapy for treating menopause symptoms.  Also exercise was linked to lower risk for estrogen receptor positive and negative cancers.

Nearly half of the women in the study reported walking was their only recreational activity and of these, those who walked 7 or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer, compared with counterparts who only walked 3 hours or less a week.

The women walked at a leisurely to moderate pace, which is about 3 miles an hour.

The findings also have shown that women who, as well as walking, did other, more vigorous exercise, had a 25% lower risk of breast cancer, compared with the least active women.

Study leader Dr. Alpa Patel, a senior epidemiologist at the ACS, and strategic director of the society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3,

“Our findings are particularly relevant, as people struggle with conflicting information about how much activity they need to stay healthy. Without any other recreational physical activities, walking on average of at least 1 hour per day was associated with a modestly lower risk of breast cancer. More strenuous and longer activities lowered the risk even more.”

The researchers analyzed data on breast cancer and exercise captured in the CPS-II Nutritional Cohort, whose participants included 73,615 postmenopausal women, among whom 4,760 were diagnosed with breast cancer in a 17-year period starting back in 1992.

The American Cancer Society recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity every week.

Moderate intensity activity is at the level of brisk walking, and vigorous activity challenges the cardiovascular system more, for instance as in running, strong swimming and aerobic dancing.

Dr Patel adds:

“Given that more than 60% of women report some daily walking, promoting walking as a healthy leisure-time activity could be an effective strategy for increasing physical activity among postmenopausal women.”

While there is plenty of evidence linking exercise to lowering the risk for breast cancer, there is still little known about the underlying biological mechanisms. One idea is that exercise helps regulate hormones like estrogen and insulin, both of which can boost breast cancer growth.

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