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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Exercise May Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Older Women

But the effect quickly fades once workouts stop, researchers noted

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 11, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Older women intent on keeping breast cancer at bay may want to start and maintain a regular exercise regimen, a new study shows.

The researchers found that regular physical activity cuts the odds of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, but that protection disappears if women stop exercising.

One expert wasn't surprised by the findings.

"As a breast surgeon, one of my roles is to discuss prevention strategies for women," said Dr. Alison Estabrook, chief of the division of breast surgery at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt hospitals in New York City.

"Exercise is certainly one prevention strategy I discuss for many reasons, and this study emphasizes the importance of physical activity and of its continuation in the postmenopausal years," she said.

In the study, a team led by Agnes Fournier at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, tracked more than 59,000 postmenopausal women in France who were followed for an average of 8.5 years.

During that time, more than 2,100 of the women were diagnosed with primary invasive breast cancer.

Women who in the previous four years had done regular exercise equivalent to at least four hours of walking or cycling per week were 10 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those who did less exercise.

The breast cancer-reducing impact of regular exercise was independent of weight, body fat, waist circumference and exercise levels from five to nine years earlier, according to the study published Aug. 11 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"Physical activity is thought to decrease a woman's risk for breast cancer after menopause. However, it was not clear how rapidly this association is observed after regular physical activity is begun or for how long it lasts after regular exercise stops," Fournier said in a journal news release.

"Our study answers these questions. We found that recreational physical activity, even of modest intensity, seemed to have a rapid impact on breast cancer risk," she said.

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