How women can walk away breast cancer risks

How women can walk away breast cancer risks

A new study finds that post-menopausal women may be able to reduce their risk of breast cancer by 14 percent with a daily one-hour walk. Those who engage in even more vigorous exercise daily can lower their risk by 25 percent.

The findings are published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Using survey data from more than 75,000 women aged 50 to 74 years, researchers followed participants from 1997 to 2009 and had them complete questionnaires every two years during that time.

The respondents answered questions about their exercise routines and activities. They also reported the amount of time they were sedentary. During the length of the study, 4,760 of the participants developed breast cancer.

“We examined whether recreational physical activity, specifically walking, was associated with lower breast cancer risk. Given that more than 60 percent of women report some daily walking, promoting walking as a healthy leisure-time activity could be an effective strategy for increasing physical activity among postmenopausal women,” said Alpa Patel, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in a news release. “We were pleased to find that without any other recreational activity; just walking an average of one hour per day was associated with lower risk of breast cancer in these women.”

The positive results of regular exercise were not affected by body type, body mass index (BMI) or hormone use, study leaders said.

“Current guidelines recommend that adults should strive to get at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for overall health. Higher levels of activity may provide greater benefit for breast cancer prevention,” Patel said.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, exceeded only by lung cancer, according to the ACS.

Because breast cancer can strike at any age, Dr. Heidi Memmel, a breast surgeon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital,  says women of all ages should be aware of the high risk factors for breast cancer, including:

  • A family history of breast cancer in a male or female close blood relative (first-, second-, and third-degree relative)
  • A personal history of breast cancer or if you have a specific genetic defect (BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutation)
  • Any history of radiation therapy to the chest before age 40
  • Race, heavy alcohol use, smoking, very dense breasts and obesity

Taking preventive steps to ensure you are healthy is always the right thing to do. The ACS recommends that beginning at age 20, women get regular clinical breast exams at least every three years and also perform monthly self-breast exams. The ACS also recommends annual screening mammograms starting at age 40. But it is important to note that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends routine screening for women ages 50 to 74.

For more information on breast health, visit

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.