Increasing physical activity and sitting less is “highly likely” to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, new research has found.
The findings, published this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, were consistent across all types and stages of breast cancer, prompting researchers to recommend a greater emphasis on exercise as a precautionary measure.
The study was led by the non-profit organization Cancer Council Victoria in Australia and included a team of cancer researchers from institutions around the world, including Australia, the UK, the US and in Canada.
Observational studies have shown that a lack of physical activity and general sedentary behavior are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, but such a correlation could also be subject to bias, and it is more difficult to prove the cause and effect relationship.
Accordingly, the research team used a statistical method called Mendelian randomization, which involves a person’s genetic variants. A human’s genes are randomly passed on to each generation, which influences the amount of food, sleep, drink, exercise, etc. These genetic influences are not influenced by the lifestyle choices an individual has made over the years.
Given this, scientists can look at genetic variants of a particular risk factor – in this case, lifelong physical activity levels and sedentary behavior – to try to establish cause and effect. ‘effect.
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“Increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time are already recommended for cancer prevention. Our study adds further evidence that such behavioral changes are likely to reduce the incidence of future breast cancer rates. breast,” study author and associate professor Brigid Lynch said in a statement. Lynch also works as Deputy Head of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology at Cancer Council Victoria.
“A greater cancer control focus on physical activity and sedentary time as modifiable cancer risk factors is warranted, given the high burden of disease attributed to the most common cancer in women” , added Lynch.
Effect of physical activity on breast cancer risk
In this study, the research team assessed whether physical activity and time spent sitting across the lifespan might have a causal link with breast cancer risk in general, and specifically with different types of tumors.
They used data from participants in 76 different studies as part of the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC), a forum of scientists studying the hereditary risk of breast cancer. The data included nearly 131,000 women of European ancestry.
Of this group, over 69,800 of them had tumors that had spread locally, 6,667 had tumors that had not yet, and a comparison group of over 54,400 women who had not. no breast cancer at all.
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The researchers relied on studies published by the UK Biobank on how genes can influence our physical activity, vigorous physical activity or time spent sitting. The team also estimated participants’ overall breast cancer risk, by whether or not they had gone through menopause and by type, stage and grade of cancer.
Analysis of all data showed that an overall higher level of genetically predicted physical activity was associated with a 41% lower risk of invasive breast cancer, and largely independent of menopausal status, tumor type , stage or grade, depending on the study.
Similarly, genetically predicted vigorous physical activity on three or more days of the week was associated with a 38% lower risk of breast cancer, compared to no self-reported vigorous activity. These results were consistent across most case clusters, the team found.
Additionally, a higher level of genetically predicted sitting time was linked to a 104% higher risk of triple-negative breast cancer, the team said.
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The team noted how increased physical activity and less sedentary time can reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing fat in the body, which can improve metabolism, improve sex hormone levels and reduce inflammation.
“The mechanisms linking sedentary time and cancer are likely to at least partially overlap with those underlying the physical activity relationship,” the researchers noted in the study.
“This study shows that increasing overall physical activity levels and reducing sedentary time may protect against future risk of breast cancer,” said study co-author Sarah Lewis, professor of Molecular Epidemiology at Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences, in a statement.
“Additional work is underway to determine how physical activity affects cancer risk and to investigate the impact of physical activity on cancers at other sites,” Lewis added.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati.
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