As women get older, their risk for breast cancer increases. Add to that the weight they start putting on because of lack of active exercise, child bearing and other changes. However, a new analysis has found that physical activity—even a mild one—before or after menopause, reduces their risk for breast cancer. But they warn that gaining weight negates these benefits.
Exercise is a known risk reducer. However, there is no clarity on its intensity, duration or frequency. Another area that needed clarity was whether women of all body types experienced a reduction in their risk for breast cancer with exercise. So, Lauren McCullough, of the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill with her colleagues decided to investigate.
Their study included 1,504 women with breast cancer [233 noninvasive and 1,271 invasive] and 1,555 women without breast cancer who were 20 to 98 years old.
Here’s what they found:
- Women who exercise during their reproductive or in their postmenopausal years are less likely to get breast cancer
- Women who exercise 10 to 19 hours per week are 30 per cent less likely than tho who exercise less. They benefit the most
- The intensity of exercise does not matter—benefits are experienced even by women who engage in light exercise
The researchers warn though about gaining weight, particularly after menopause. They found that women who were active but had gained significant weight post-menopause, still could develop breast cancer negating the benefits of exercise.