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Exercise May Reduce Women's Cancer Risk

Posted - Apr. 2, 2004 at 9:30 a.m.



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Regular exercise may reduce a woman's risk of developing certain cancers, and also improve her chances of surviving after a cancer diagnosis.

We all know regular exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Now researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Vanderbilt University reveal a new health benefit.

One study found women who get regular exercise may reduce their risk of endometrial cancer by as much as thirty to forty percent.

A second study shows for women diagnosed with breast cancer, modest amounts of exercise may substantially improve their chances of survival.

Dr. Michelle Holmes, M.D./ Brigham & Women's Hospital: "We followed over 2,000 women with breast cancer for up to 16 years, and we asked them about their exercise after their cancer diagnosis. We found the women who exercised moderate amounts had a 35 to 45 percent decreased risk of death over the women who were the most sedentary."

The kind of exercise noted in these studies were not very intense. In fact, even just a half hour walk a day for the week appears to confer some benefit. The key is staying active, and not sedentary.

As to why exercise is so beneficial? Experts say it's still unclear and there are several theories that involve a lower body weight. But you don't have to wait for definitive proof. The prescription to get some regular exercise can only help.

Dr. Laura Esserman/ UCSF Breast Care Center: "We know this is the kind of thing that's good for you for almost every reason. It's good for self-esteem. It's good for body conditioning. It's good for future weight control. So go out and get some exercise, lots of it, and eat well."

In fact, UCSF researchers believe young girls may drop their risk of breast cancer by one half if they can delay the start of their periods through regular exercise and a healthy diet.

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