Walk your Way to Breast Health

A study published in the journal Cancer Epedemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention links walking one hour per day to decreased breast cancer risk.

Although previous research has linked exercise to a decreased cancer risk, the current study is the first one that definitively shows that simply walking decreases risk, according to the American Cancer Society.

Study Details

For the research, a group of over 73,000 women aged 50-74 were gathered back in 1992 and 1993; the women were interviewed every two years for the following 17 years.  When compared to women who walked three hours a week or less, those who walked 7 hours or more were 14% less likely to develop breast cancer.  More strenuous and longer exercise was association was associated with further decreased risk of developing the disease.

Lifestyle Influences Risk

In 2010, an Oxford University study revealed that lifestyle can have an even greater impact on breast cancer risk than genetic predisposition.  Researchers studied 10,196 women who were healthy and 7,160 who had breast cancer; they concluded that while genetic variants add to overall risk, they do not multiply it as lifestyle factors do.

In  2009, Reuters published the results of a study that suggests that 40% of breast cancers could be eliminated if more women controlled their weight, breastfed their babies, exercised more and limited alcohol. A study one year later showed that quitting smoking reduces risk.

Research published by the National Cancer Institute showed that nicotine is clearly associated with increased risk.  Researchers at Taipei University in Taiwan demonstrated that nicotine actually binds to a particular cell receptor.  Prior to that study, medical professionals had associated breast cancer with other carcinogens found in cigarettes, but not with nicotine specifically.

In 2010, 88,000 post menopausal women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative were interviewed about their lifestyles; researchers determined that alcohol influences the risk of developing estrogen and progesterone receptor breast cancer.  Those who drank one drink per day had an increased risk of these breast cancers; each additional drink further increased risk.

According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass, which may or may not be painful.  Other symptoms include:

  • swelling in all or part of the breast
  • skin irritation
  • dimpling in the breast
  • nipple retraction
  • breast or nipple pain
  • redness, scaliness or thickening of nipple or breast skin
  • nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

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