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Vigorous exercise could reduce breast cancer risk for postmenopausal African American women

October 01, 2010
  • Regular vigorous exercise, such as running, might reduce the risk of breast cancer for some African American women
Regular vigorous exercise, such as running, might reduce the risk of breast… (Ringo H.W. Chiu / for the…)

Vigorous exercise could greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer for postmenopausal African American women, a study finds.

The pilot study, presented this week at the American Association for Cancer Research conference In Miami, Fla., may be good news for women as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off. Researchers asked 97 African American women who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and 102 matched women without breast cancer questions about their physical activity. Exercise such as aerobics and running was considered vigorous.

Women who did vigorous exercise for two or more hours per week in the past year had a 64% decreased risk of breast cancer compared with sedentary women. Those who did moderate activities, such as walking, showed a 17% reduced risk of breast cancer compared with women who didn't exercise.

The benefits were seen mostly for postmenopausal women, who had a 62% decrease in cancer risk. The small study sample could be to blame for not seeing greater reduced risk in premenopausal women, the authors said.

"People often want to know what they can do to reduce their risk of disease," lead author Vanessa Sheppard said in a news release. Sheppard, an assistant professor in the department of oncology at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., added, "We have found that just two or more hours of vigorous activity per week can made a difference in one's risk of developing breast cancer."

Sheppard said that the findings should be approached carefully: "This is a pilot study and a larger, more rigorous study is needed to precisely quantify the effect of exercise on development of breast cancer. I think it is fair to conclude that if African American women exercise they can help take charge of their health."

-- Jeannine Stein / Los Angeles Times

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