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Exercise and breast cancer risk

10 November 2010

Exercise is important at all stages of life, but particularly at the time of the menopause when many changes are taking place due to estrogen deficiency, it is essential that exercise is taken regularly. Exercise has been shown to reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms, especially the mood changes which so often occur, and can play an important part in reducing the long term risks of estrogen deficiency such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, both of which increase significantly after the menopause.

Yet another benefit of exercise has recently been reported from the ongoing Nurses Health Study, which has shown that moderate physical activity, including brisk walking, may reduce postmenopausal breast cancer and that increases in activity after menopause may be beneficial. The study has now been following up over 90,000 postmenopausal women since 1986. Those women who engaged in physical activity of approximately 1 hour per day of brisk walking, had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer compared to those with less than 1 hour walking per week, and there was a decreased risk if women increased their activity after the menopause.

Remember also the effects of alcohol on breast cancer risk, with 2 or more units per day increasing the risk more than the use of HRT for 5 years. See our breast cancer risk chart.

It is really important to be aware that such simple changes such as increasing brisk walking, and cutting down alcohol can make a significant difference in our health.

[Reference 60]

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