Post-menopausal women who engage in moderate to vigorous exercise have a reduced risk of breast cancer, according to a recent article in the open access journal BMC Cancer. The researchers investigated the link between breast cancer and exercise.

“With an estimated 182,460 new cases diagnosed in the United States in 2008, breast cancer is recognized as the most common cancer affecting U.S. women,” says Dr. Tricia M. Peters from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, who headed up an international team of researchers. Vigorous exercise has been hypothesized to reduce cancer risk for some time. However, this new study is one of the first prospective investigations to look at the importance of various intensities of exercise at different stages in an individual’s life.

More than 110,000 post menopausal women were asked to rate their level of physical activity at ages 15 to 18, 19 to 29, 35 to 39, and in the past 10 years. It was found, in more than 6.6 years of follow up, that women who engaged in more than seven hours per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for the last 10 years were 16 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were inactive. However, no link was observed between breast cancer risk and physical activity in women who were active at a younger age.

Dr. Peters concludes, “Our findings could help inform the mechanisms of the physical activity-breast cancer relationship. With breast cancer still claiming so many lives, all the information of potential preventive measures we can get is vital”.

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