As you go through menopause, it’s important to focus on your age. It turns out that the age you go through this transition is an established risk factor for breast cancer.
The Susan B. Komen Foundation pointed out that studies have found that women who go into menopause later in life are at greater risk of breast cancer than women who go through an earlier menopause. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of 117 studies found that the risk of breast cancer increased by about three percent for every year older a woman was when she went through menopause. “Going through menopause at a later age increases the risk of breast cancer,” the foundation’s website stated. “For example, studies show women who go through menopause after age 55 have about a 30 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who do so before age 45.”
Researchers believe the reason for this increased risk is the higher lifetime exposure to estrogen. The later a woman goes through menopause, the longer her breast tissue is exposed to estrogens released during the menstrual cycle and the greater her lifetime exposure to estrogen,” the Susan B. Komen Foundation reported.
So how can you lower your risk of breast cancer during the menopausal transition and afterwards? Turns out that one preventative measure is tying on your shoes and heading out the door for a jaunt around the neighborhood, at a park or on a hiking trail.
In a recently published study, researchers looked at data from 73,615 women who were in menopause who were taking part in the CPS-II Nutritional Cohort. This study, which was under the auspices of the American Cancer Society, began in 1992 and continued for 17 years. During that span, 4,760 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Researchers looked at exercise levels and the diagnosis of breast cancer in these participants. Their analysis found that menopausal women who walked at least seven hours a week had a 14 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who walked three or fewer hours per week. The women walked about 3 miles per hour, which was considered a moderate pace. The researchers also determined that women who walked and also did more vigorous exercise actually had a 25 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer when compared to women who were the least active. Additionally, the researchers found that any woman benefitted from doing physical activity, no matter their weight or whether they were taking menopausal hormone therapy.
The reason that exercise is so important is because it reduces the risk of developing estrogen receptor positive cancers, in which the female hormone estrogen assists with the growth of the cancer. Exercise also lowers the risk of estrogen receptor negative cancers, which are often harder to treat because they do not usually respond to hormone therapy.
“Our results clearly support an association between physical activity and postmenopausal breast cancer, with more vigorous activity having a stronger effect,” said Dr. Alpa Patel, leader of the study and American Cancer Society strategic director of Cancer Prevention Study-3. “Our findings are particularly relevant, as people struggle with conflicting information about how much activity they need to stay healthy. Without any other recreational physical activities, walking on average of at least one hour per day was associated with a modestly lower risk of breast cancer. More strenuous and longer activities lowered the risk even more.”
So I’d encourage you to find a friend to walk with on a regular basis. Or tie on your shoes while you’re dog is watching, which will give you an instant walking buddy to join you on a jaunt around the neighborhood. Or do both! Happy walking!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Simon, S. (2013). Study links walking to lower breast cancer risk. American Cancer Society.
Susan g. Komen Foundation. (2012). Age at menopause.
Susan G. Komen Foundation (2013). Table 10: Age at menopause and breast cancer risk.
Published On: November 04, 2013