Postmenopausal women who make working out a habit are better able to keep breast cancer at bay
LOS ANGELES, July 7, 1999 -- Regular exercise over a lifetime significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women -- especially if those women maintain a relatively stable weight throughout their adulthood -- according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California that is being published in this week's issue of the British Journal of Cancer.
A number of previous studies have found a link between exercise and a reduction in breast cancer risk for younger women. Perhaps the most prominent and often cited of these studies -- a 1994 paper published by Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., and colleagues at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center -- found that women aged 40 years or younger who spent four or more hours exercising each week over their reproductive years reduced their risk of breast cancer by more than half.
The problem, it seems, was that the concerns of those women most at risk for breast cancer -- older women who have gone through menopause -- were not addressed by those results.
"When we published the first paper, the questions we were asked most frequently were, 'What about postmenopausal women?'" says Bernstein. "Women wanted to know, 'Will exercise protect me later in life?' 'Is it too late to start exercising when I'm older?' And we didn't have an answer for them at that time."
Now they do. In their newly published paper, Bernstein, first author Catherine Carpenter, Ph.D., Ronald Ross, Ph.D., and Annlia Paganini-Hill, Ph.D., all from USC's Department of Preventive Medicine, showed that exercise can indeed protect postmenopausal women from the disease.
"Basically, we conducted a case-control study assessing the effects of lifetime
exercise on the breast cancer risk of postmenopausal women who were between the
ages of 55 and 64," says Carpenter. "We found that among women w
Contact: Lori Oliwenstein
University of Southern California