TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Women who maintain certain
"breast-healthy" habits can lower their risk of breast cancer, even
if a close relative has had the disease, a new study finds.
Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy
weight and drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all, was shown in
a large study to help protect against breast cancer in
postmenopausal women, the researchers said.
"Whether or not you have a family history, the risk of breast cancer was lower for women engaged in these three sets of behavior compared to women who were not," said study leader Dr. Robert Gramling, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
The study was published online Oct. 12 in the journal
Breast Cancer Research.
Gramling wanted to look at the effects of lifestyle habits on
breast cancer risk because he suspects some women with a family
history may believe their risk is out of their control.
He analyzed data on U.S. women aged 50 to 79 from the Women's
Health Initiative study starting in 1993. During 5.4 years of
follow-up, 1,997 women were diagnosed with invasive breast
Gramling excluded women with a personal history of breast cancer
or with a family history of early-onset cancer (diagnosed before
age 45), then observed the impact of the healthy habits.
Excluding those with an early-onset family history makes sense,
because a stronger genetic (versus environmental) component is
thought to play a role in early-onset, experts say.
Following all three habits reduced the risk of breast cancer for
women with and without a late-onset family history. "For women who
had a family history and adhered to all these behaviors, about six
of every 1,000 women got breast cancer over a year's time," he
In comparison, about seven of every 1,000 women developed breast
cancer each year if they had a late-onset family history and
followed none of the behaviors.
Among women without a family history who followed all three
habits, about 3.5 of every 1,000 were diagnosed with breast cancer
annually, compared to about 4.6 per 1,000 per year for those
without a family history who followed none of the habits.
For his study, Gramling considered regular physical activity to
be 20 minutes of heart-rate raising exercise at least five times a
week. Moderate alcohol intake was defined as fewer than seven
drinks a week. A healthy body weight was defined in the standard
way, having a body mass index, or BMI, of 18.5 to under 25.
Gramling hopes his research will reverse the thinking of women
whose mother or sister had breast cancer who sometimes believe they
are doomed to develop the disease, too.
The findings echo what other experts have known, said Dr. Susan
Gapstur, vice president of the epidemiology research program at the
American Cancer Society, who reviewed the study findings.
"The results of this study show that both women with a family history [late-onset] and without will benefit from maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, and consuming lower amounts of alcohol, limiting their alcohol consumption," she said.
The American Cancer Society guidelines for reducing breast
cancer risk include limiting alcohol to no more than a drink a day,
maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in 45 to 60 minutes of
"intentional physical activity" five or more days a week.
The risk reduction effects found in the Gramling study may
actually increase if women follow the more intense exercise
guidelines of the ACS, Gapstur said.
To learn more about breast cancer risk factors, visit the
American Cancer Society.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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