It’s simple – exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much you weigh or when you start.
French researcher Mathieu Boniol presented his findings on Thursday at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Glasgow. His study involved more than 4 million women around the world who participated in prospective studies from 1987 to 2013. They found that the more active a woman is, the better her odds of avoiding breast cancer. He concluded that Women who were most active, with more than an hour a day of vigorous activity, got the most benefits, lowering their cancer risk by up to 12 percent.
“This decrease is the same whatever the country, whatever the age, whatever the menopausal status,” Boniol said. Furthermore it didn’t matter if women were active in work, activities of daily life or sports. “It’s very good news.”
“These are all the studies looking at the relationship between physical exercise and breast cancer risk that have been published to date, so we are confident that the results of our analysis are robust.
“Adding breast cancer, including its aggressive types, to the list of diseases that can be prevented by physical activity should encourage the development of cities that foster sport by becoming bike and walk-friendly, the creation of new sports facilities, and the promotion of exercise through education campaigns.
“This is a low cost, simple strategy to reduce the risk of a disease that currently has a very high cost, both to healthcare systems and to patients and their families. It is good news both for individuals and for policy makers.”
Professor Fran Boyle, Australian breast cancer specialist from the Mater Hospital in Sydney, said, “This research adds to a growing body of knowledge worldwide that exercise may reduce the risk of breast cancer and perhaps also recurrence after diagnosis. The risk reduction is small overall, but in a common condition, every little bit helps.
“The challenge is to find ways as a society to encourage safe exercise throughout women’s lifespan.” Professor Boyle added researchers in Australia are tackling this challenge, trialling different interventional techniques to encourage exercise. “A recently funded Australian study for women who have had breast cancer will examine whether a telephone based support intervention can help tailor exercise and encourage persistence.”
Dr Hilary Dobson, chairwoman of the conference’s national organising committee, added: “These findings are important for all women, irrespective of their age and weight.
“Whilst the mechanism for the potentially protective effect of physical activity remains unclear, the analysis, which is presented here, provides women with a real impetus to increase their physical activity by even modest increments.”