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Can weight and exercise affect breast cancer risk?

December 2006

Two studies reported this year have shown that both reducing weight and increasing exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer. The first study published in the Journal of the American Medical association showed that an increase in weight of 1 stones after the menopause can increase the risk of developing breast cancer by 18%. However, the good news is that women who lost 1 stones reduced their risk by more than 50%. The American study of 87,000 women showed an increased risk of breast cancer of 45% in women who gained 55lbs since the age of 18 compared to those who had not gained weight. Women who gained 22lbs after the menopause had an 18% increased risk. The risk was reduced by 57% in women who lost 22lbs after the menopause compared with those who did not lose weight.

The second study examined the effect of exercise on breast cancer risk. Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine [Ref] a study of 41,836 postmenopausal women showed that high levels of physical activity were associated with lower risk of breast cancer compared with low physical activity. Different types of breast cancer according to hormone receptor status were affected by varying levels but the authors concluded that higher recreational physical activity might reduce the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer overall.

Healthy diet and lifestyle is important at all stages of life and this provides further evidence of even more beneficial effects after the menopause. See also diet and exercise

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