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Exercise Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Risk in Black Women

THURSDAY, Dec. 12, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Vigorous exercise on a regular basis might help protect black women against an aggressive form of breast cancer, researchers have found.

The new study included nearly 45,000 black women, aged 30 and older, who were followed for nearly 20 years. Those who engaged in vigorous exercise for a lifetime average of three or more hours a week were 47 percent less likely to develop so-called estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer compared with those who exercised an average of one hour per week, the investigators found.

This type of breast cancer, which includes HER2-positive and triple-negative tumors, is linked to both higher incidence and death risk in black women, compared to white women. These estrogen receptor-negative tumors do not respond to the types of hormone therapies used to treat tumors that have the estrogen receptor, the researchers said in a Georgetown University Medical Center news release.

No level of exercise affected the women's risk for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, according to the study findings, which were presented Wednesday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

"These findings are very encouraging. Knowing that exercise may protect against breast cancers that disproportionately strike black women is of great public health importance," Lucile Adams-Campbell, a professor of oncology and associate director of minority health and health disparities research at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., said in the news release.

"We all want to do what we can to reduce our risk of disease and improve our health," Adams-Campbell said. "Along with other well-known benefits, we now show that exercise can possibly stave off development of potentially lethal breast cancer in black women."

Although the study found an association between regular vigorous exercise and lower risk of an aggressive form of breast cancer in black women, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. In addition, the data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer prevention.

SOURCE: Georgetown University Medical Center, news release, Dec. 11, 2013