Active lifestyle can help lower breast cancer risk

An active lifestyle, which could involve brisk walking, gardening and doing housework, helps reduce the chance of getting breast cancer, research suggests.

The study involving Oxford University researchers is thought to be the largest ever to look at physical activity and breast cancer, and included over 8,000 breast cancer cases in women. The research is part of ongoing work by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), one of the biggest studies into the links between diet, lifestyle and cancer.

The researchers found that the most physically active women were 13% less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who were physically inactive.

Researchers found that women who were moderately active had an 8% lower chance of developing breast cancer.

Professor Tim Key of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, who works on the EPIC study, said: ‘This large study further highlights the benefits of being active – even moderate amounts. There is also a lot of evidence that exercise reduces the risk of bowel cancer. More research is needed on other types of cancer, and to investigate the mechanisms which could explain the links.’

The government recommends we do 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity – such as brisk walking. But only 39 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women are managing this.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘While maintaining a healthy bodyweight and cutting back on alcohol remain two of the best ways of reducing our risk of breast cancer, being active can clearly play a role too – but doesn’t have to cost you money or too much time.

‘You don’t need to train like an Olympic athlete but the excitement of watching team GB win so many golds might have inspired some of us to spend less time on the sofa. And, as this research confirms, exercise can include anything that leaves you slightly out of breath like doing the gardening, walking the dog or housework.

‘Small changes in your daily routine can make all the difference, like taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking some of the way to work, school or the shops and add up over the course of a week.

‘Keeping active could help prevent more than 3,000 cases of cancer in the UK every year. And it can have a positive effect on your health.’

The EPIC study is funded by Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and other European agencies. It is an ongoing study looking into the dietary habits of more than half a million people in Europe.