Study: exercise may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer - WNCT

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Study: exercise may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Dr. Kevin Campbell will be on WNCN Today to talk about the disease and how physical activity may reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast and grows into surround tissues or spreads to distant areas of the body.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About 12 percent of women in the United States will develop an invasive form of breast cancer during their lifetime.

The American Cancer Society's estimates for 2013:

  • About 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed women.
  • About 64,640 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,620 women will die from the disease.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman's death is about 3 percent.

But a new study suggests that women who exercise can substantially reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. In the study researchers examined medical information from more than 73,600 postmenopausal women age 50 to 73. The women had to answer questionnaires about how the spent their leisure time and if they exercised.

About 9 percent reported never exercising. A few said that they exercised vigorously and often, typically by running, swimming or playing singles tennis.

But most walked, usually at a pleasant pace of about 3 miles per hour. About half of the group reported that such strolling was their only form of exercise.

When the researchers cross-tabulated exercise regimens and medical records, they found that those women who walked at least seven hours a week, had a 14 percent less chance of developing breast cancer than those who walked for fewer than three hours per week.

Meanwhile, those few women who were the most active, sweating vigorously for up to 10 hours each week, realized an even greater benefit, had a 25 percent less chance of developing breast cancer.

Exercise, by altering the ratio of estrogen metabolites and also reducing total body fat, may change the internal makeup of a woman's body and make it harder for breast cancer to take hold.

Preventing Cancer

The most important thing women can do to help prevent breast cancer is to perform monthly self-breast exams and to get appropriate screening tests.

Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.

Women in their 20's and 30's should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic health exam by a health professional, at least every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.

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