Health briefs: Exercise lowers breast cancer risk

  • Updated: August 15, 2014 - 6:42 PM

Exercise lowers breast cancer risk

For women past childbearing age, a new study finds that a modest amount of exercise — four hours a week of walking or more intensive physical activity such as cycling for just two hours a week — drives down breast cancer risk by roughly 10 percent.

If exercise were a pill, its effectiveness in driving down a woman’s breast cancer risk would occur fairly quickly, the new research says: When women reported at least this modest level of physical activity over the past four years, they were less likely to have developed malignancy.

But, like a pill, exercise must be continued for the effect to endure: Even if a woman had been physically active earlier in life, when her reported physical activity levels dropped below the equivalent of four hours of weekly walking, her risk of breast cancer went back up.

Past research had established that regular exercise will help drive down the risk of heart disease, a far more common killer of women.


Baby Aspirin Can Fight Cancer

A large review of available data has confirmed that taking small amounts of aspirin over long periods of time reduces the risk of colon cancer and certain other cancers.

British researchers gathered evidence from six published systematic reviews and four individual studies with data on long-term aspirin use in people 50 to 65 years old.

The analysis, published online in Annals of Oncology, found strong evidence that aspirin reduced the risk of colorectal cancer, and good evidence that it reduced the risk of esophageal and stomach cancers. Smaller or more variable effects protected against breast, prostate and lung cancers.

In controlled trials, there was no benefit until three years of use, and mortality was reduced after five years.


Yoga needs an exercise partner

In general, the few available experiments involving yoga suggest that it leads to measurable but limited and patchy gains in strength.

But yoga appears to be too gentle physically to be anyone’s lone exercise. In one of the most interesting studies of the activity to date, experienced yoga enthusiasts performed their favorite type of yoga for an hour in a metabolic chamber that tracked their caloric usage and heart rate. The volunteers then sat quietly in the chamber and also walked on a treadmill at a leisurely 2 mph and a brisker 3 mph pace. Yoga was equivalent in energy cost to strolling at 2 mph, which, the authors wrote, would “not meet recommendations for levels of physical activity for improving or maintaining health or cardiovascular fitness.”

So if you downward dog, jog occasionally, as well, and visit the gym to build full-body strength and wellness.

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