Sitting less, more physical activity is “highly likely” to reduce breast cancer risk, the study says

FILE – A woman jogging in a Los Angeles park after sunset on April 6, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images)

New research suggests that increasing physical activity and sitting less is “very likely” to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

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 greater attention to exercise as a preventative measure.

The study was conducted by the Cancer Council Victoria in Australia and included a team of cancer researchers from institutions around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

Observational studies have shown that lack of physical activity and general sedentary behavior are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, but such a correlation could also be prone to bias and proving cause and effect is more difficult.

As a result, the research team used a statistical method called Mendelian randomization, which involves a person’s genetic variants. A human’s genes are passed on randomly every generation, which affects how much we eat, sleep, drink, exercise and more. These genetic influences are not affected by the life choices made by an individual over the years.

That said, scientists can look at the genetic variants for a particular risk factor – in this case, lifelong physical activity levels and sedentary behavior – to try to establish cause and 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,” he said. said the study’s author and associate professor Brigid Lynch in a statement. Lynch also works as Deputy Head of Cancer Council Victoria’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology.

“Greater focus on cancer control on physical activity and sedentary time as modifiable cancer risk factors is warranted, given the heavy burden of disease attributed to the most common cancer in women,” Lynch added.

Effect of physical activity on breast cancer risk

In this study, the research team investigated whether lifelong physical activity and time spent sitting could be causally related to breast cancer risk in general and different types of cancers in particular.

They used data from participants from 76 different studies within the Breast Cancer Association (BCAC) Consortium, a forum of scientists studying the hereditary risk of breast cancer. The data included nearly 131,000 women of European descent.

In this group, more than 69,800 of them had cancers that had spread locally, 6,667 had cancers that hadn’t yet, and a comparison group of more than 54,400 women who had no breast cancer at all.

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The researchers drew on studies published by the British biobank on how genes can affect our physical activity, vigorous physical activity or time spent sitting. The team also estimated the participants’ overall risk of breast cancer, based on whether they entered menopause and by type, stage and grade of cancer.

Analysis of all data showed that a higher overall 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, the study said.

Likewise, genetically anticipated vigorous physical activity for three or more days of the week was associated with a 38% lower risk of breast cancer, compared with no self-reported vigorous activity. These findings were consistent across most case groups, the team found.

Additionally, a higher level of genetically predicted sitting time has been 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 reduced sedentary time can reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing fat in the body, which can improve metabolism, boost sex hormone levels and reduce inflammation.

“The mechanisms linking sedentary time and cancer are likely to overlap at least in part with those underlying the relationship to physical activity,” the researchers noted in the study.

“This study shows that increasing overall physical activity levels and reducing sedentary time could protect against future breast cancer risk,” study co-author Sarah Lewis, professor of molecular epidemiology at Bristol, said in a statement. Medical School: Population Health Sciences.

“Further work is underway to determine how physical activity affects cancer risk and to study the impact of physical activity on tumors at other sites,” Lewis added.

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This story was reported from Cincinnati.

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