Exercise Lowers Breast Cancer Risk
Moderate Activity Level Cuts Risk of Aggressive Cancer Type by a Third in Older Women
WebMD News Archive
The Importance of Tumor Type continued...
High physical activity (9,111 women) was defined as vigorous activity --
such as jogging, swimming, or racket sports -- two or more times each week, or
moderate activity -- such as bowling, golf, or walking -- more than four times
Medium physical activity (10,030 women) was defined as engaging in a
vigorous activity once a week or in moderate activity one to four times a
About 17,222 women got less exercise than this and were recorded in the low
physical activity group.
Of the women in the study with breast cancer of a known type, roughly 14%
had the progesterone negative, or ER+/PR-, tumors.
This type of tumor is more aggressive than a progesterone-receptor positive
High physical activity was associated with a 34% reduction in the risk of
the progesterone-negative tumors, and this risk reduction did not appear to be
influenced by body weight, Cerhan says.
The Impact of Estrogen
is a source of
estrogen in postmenopausal women, and estrogen also drives the development of
Since the impact of exercise was strongly linked to body weight for ER+/PR+
tumors, but not for ER+/PR- tumors, the researchers suggest that some other
mechanism may be involved in the development of tumors.
"This finding argues against estrogen being the major player for this
tumor subtype," Cerhan says.
But from a public health standpoint, the message is the same.
Postmenopausal women can lower their overall breast cancer risk by engaging
in regular exercise, says breast cancer researcher Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, of
Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
McTiernan wrote the book Breast Fitness: An Optimal Exercise and Health
Plan for Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer.
"Lack of exercise and obesity are thought to account for about a quarter
of breast cancer cases," she tells WebMD.
"It is clear that women are not as physically active as they should be.
We have an epidemic of obesity," she points out.
"Exercising and avoiding weight gain are two important things that women
can do to lower their risk," says McTiernan.