Exercise Protects Menopausal Women from Risk of Death from Breast Cancer

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    Beginning to think about your New Year’s resolutions? Here’s one of the old faithfuls to reconsider based on a recently-published study – get back into an exercise routine!

    That’s because a new study out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory underscores the importance of regular exercise, especially if you’re a middle-age woman who has larger breasts, in protecting you from dying from breast cancer. The researchers pointed out that previous research suggests that being physically active can reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 25 percent.

    These researchers looked at the relationship between a woman’s breast size, the amount she exercises and mortality from breast cancer in a cohort of 80,000 women who were runners and walkers. Of these women, approximately 33,000 were walkers while 46,000 were runners. This was a longitudinal study that followed these women for 11 years.  At the start of the study, none of the study participants had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They all reported the distances they walked or ran weekly. The participants also shared their bra cup size, body weight and height.

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    At the end of the study period, 111 study participants had died from breast cancer. The women who died were, on average, in their mid-50s. The researchers’ analysis found that participants who met current exercise guidelines (two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity, an hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity or an equivalent combination weekly) had a 42-percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer when compared to the participants who did not meet the guidelines. The researchers also identified the amount of exercise that seems to protect against breast cancer. For walkers, it meant approximately seven miles of brisk walking (which is defined as a pace of about 3.5 miles per hour).  Runners needed to cover approximately five miles each week. Furthermore, the researchers didn’t find a difference in protective ability between walking and running. While the study did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship, it definitely showed a link between reaching the recommended amount of exercise and a decreased risk of dying from breast cancer.

    The analysis found that 41.5-percent reduction for breast cancer mortality for women who exercised at least if not more than the recommended amounts weekly could not be explained by other breast cancer risk factors, such as body mass index and obesity. The other two significant risk factors for fatal breast cancer in this study were menopause and breast cup size.

    The researchers found a strong relationship between larger breast size and ban increased risk of dying from breast cancer. For instance, women who had a C cup breast size had a four-time higher risk of dying from breast cancer as women who had an A cup. Furthermore, women who had a D-cup breast size or higher were found to be five times more at risk of dying from this condition than women who have an A-cup breast size. Researchers pointed out that higher estrogen levels -- which are an identified risk for breast cancer -- are found in large-breasted women who have smaller waists.

  • And if you’re looking at other resolutions to decrease your limit of breast cancer, here are some other suggestions, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

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    • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day.
    • Don’t smoke. Researchers have found a link between smoking and the risk of breast cancer, especially in women who are perimenopause.
    • Control your weight.
    • Limit the dose and duration of any hormone therapy.
    • Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution.
    • Eat a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables. While this type of diet hasn’t consistently been found to offer protection from breast cancer, it can help you maintain a healthy weight and also lower your risk of other types of cancer.

    Primary Resources for This Sharepost:

    Mayo Clinic. (2012). Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk.

    MedlinePlus.  (2013). Bigger breasts, lack of exercise tied to breast cancer mortality.

    Williams, P. T. (2013). Breast cancer mortality vs. exercise and breast size in runners and walkers. PLOS ONE.

Published On: December 11, 2013