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Exercise May Cut Older
Women's Breast Cancer Risk



NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older women who exercise may be less likely than their inactive peers to develop breast cancer, Dutch researchers have found.

Women who biked or walked for more than an hour each day had a 19% reduction in their odds of developing breast cancer, according to Dr. Miranda J. M. Dirx of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

The findings, which are published in the September 15th issue of the journal Cancer, add to a growing body of evidence linking physical activity to a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The investigators evaluated exercise habits among more than 62,000 women aged 55 to 69 years, and looked at their risk of developing breast cancer over a 7-year period. During that time about 1,200 women developed breast cancer.

``The results of the current study support the hypothesis that physical activity protects against breast (cancer) in postmenopausal women,'' Dirx and colleagues write.

``Physical activity is one of the few modifiable, protective factors for breast (cancer) and there are many other important health-related reasons to promote regular exercise,'' the authors conclude.

``There are still many questions about the interaction between physical activity and breast cancer,'' Dr. Debbie Saslow of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, said in an interview with Reuters Health. ``However, the evidence is leaning toward the fact that exercise seems to have a protective effect.''

Existing evidence indicates that postmenopausal women who exercise 1 hour each day can significantly cut their breast cancer risk, according to Saslow. And she noted that 75% of breast cancer cases occur in postmenopausal women.

She also pointed out that physical activity has many other health benefits.

``Being active can help your overall health,'' Saslow said. ''It decreases the risk for heart disease--a disease that affects women much more (often) than breast cancer.''

All healthy adults, she added, should get some form of exercise at least 30 minutes a day. ``If you already do that,'' she said, ``increase the time to an hour.''

SOURCE: Cancer 2001;92:1638-1649.


Reference Source 89

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