Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Walking May Lower Breast Cancer Rates

News Brief by Lucia Joseph

The New York Times recently reported on emerging research indicating that walking may help to lower breast cancer risk. Two studies in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention assessed the way that female bodies process estrogen and the role that exercise plays. The first study involved two decades of follow-up with approximately 74,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 73 in the American Cancer Society’s Epidemiology and Research Program. All the women were asked about their exercise habits in biannual questionnaires. The most common form of exercise was easy, inexpensive, and required no gym membership: walking. As it turns out, those women who walked for at least seven hours a week had a 14% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those women who walked for less than three hours a week. More vigorous or longer periods of exercise per week resulted in greater benefits and further reduced women’s risk.
 The second study examined several hundred sedentary premenopausal women in hopes of determining how exercise might contribute to lowered risk of developing breast cancer. The women were split into two cohorts, one of which continued with previous sedentary lifestyles while the other group was put on a moderate exercise regimen for four months. Urine samples measuring a number of estrogen metabolites were compared for women at the beginning of the trial and after four months had passed. The ratio of estrogen metabolites in exercising women shifted in such a way that suggested a decreased risk of cancer. It appears that by reducing total body fat and altering the body’s production of estrogen metabolites, exercise plays a physiological role in reducing breast cancer risk by making it harder for the cancer to gain an initial foothold. Although statistics are not infallible, and exercise has not been shown to prevent breast cancer absolutely, the reduction in risk is significant. When walking is such an accessible activity and the general health benefits of frequent exercise are already an established fact, why not be hopeful about the potential for cancer reduction as well?

Reference: Reynolds, Gretchen. "How Walking May Lower Breast Cancer Risk." NY Times Well. NY Times, 9 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.
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