Regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk irrespective of age

March 20, 2014

Practising sport for more than an hour day reduces the risk of contracting breast cancer, and this applies to women of any age and any weight, and also unaffected by geographical location, according to research presented to the 9th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-9). Compared with the least active women, those with the highest level of physical activity reduced their risk of breast cancer by 12%, researchers say

Professor Mathieu Boniol, Research Director at the International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France, reported to a press conference the results of a meta-analysis of 37 studies published between 1987 and 2013, representing over four million women. "These are all the studies looking at the relationship between 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 tumour type, the overall message was encouraging, the researchers say. However, 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," Prof Boniol said.

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 , 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," said Prof Boniol. "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."

Dr Hilary Dobson, chair of EBCC-9's national organising 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), commented: "These findings are important for all women, irrespective of their age and weight. 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 ."

Explore further: Where are we with breast cancer in 2013?

Related Stories

Where are we with breast cancer in 2013?

March 19, 2014
The global burden of breast cancer remains immense in 2013, with over 1.6 million new cases being diagnosed annually. This burden has been increasing at a rate of 3.1% per year, and while the majority of new cases are diagnosed ...

Exercise, even mild physical activity, may reduce breast cancer risk

June 25, 2012
A new analysis done by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers has found that physical activity – either mild or intense and before or after menopause – may reduce breast cancer risk, but substantial ...

Study links moderate activity to lower breast cancer risk

October 4, 2013
A large new American Cancer Society study adds to increasing evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Researchers say moderate recreational activity was associated with a ...

Physical activity does not protect against in situ breast cancer, epidemiological study says

February 28, 2013
A European study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal has analysed the association between physical activities and in situ or non-invasive breast cancer, or, in other words, cancer that has ...

Follow-up care for older breast cancer survivors needs to be all-encompassing

February 26, 2014
Older women who have overcome breast cancer are likely to struggle with heart disease, osteoporosis and hypertension further on in their lives. Whether these conditions occur or not is influenced by the treatment that patients ...

Recommended for you

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.