Exercise cuts breast cancer risk, while drinking increases it, study finds

WASHINGTON — Conflicting news for women who enjoy the occasional cocktail, but also stay in shape: a new study finds that a glass of any alcoholic beverage a day increases the risk for breast cancer, while regular exercise cuts a woman’s risk.

A joint report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) revealed the stunning findings, which affect women both pre- and post-menopause.

Glass of wine
A new study finds that a single glass of wine a day can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

“It can be confusing with single studies when the findings get swept back and forth,” says Dr. Anne McTiernan, a lead author of the report and cancer prevention expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in an AICR press release. “With this comprehensive and up-to-date report the evidence is clear: Having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and limiting alcohol – these are all steps women can take to lower their risk.”

For those who hadn’t experienced menopause, moderate alcohol consumption increased breast cancer risk by five percent; for post-menopausal women, it increased the risk by nine percent.

Meanwhile, high-intensity exercise decreased the risk of breast cancer by up to 17 and 10 percent in the most active of pre- and post-menopausal women, respectively.

In addition, eating dairy and vegetables showed some promise for preventing some forms of breast cancer.

Other findings from the report included that being overweight or obese increased one’s likelihood of developing breast cancer, while breastfeeding a child lowered one’s risk.

The study’s findings were derived from an analysis of over 119 previous studies, which included documentation on over 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.

In the course of their inquiry, the researchers hoped to find how the variables of diet, weight, and exercise impacted one’s likelihood of developing breast cancer.

They hope that their study demonstrates how anyone can help improve their general health, thereby reducing their risk for diseases including cancer.

“There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer, but it’s empowering to know you can do something to lower your risk,” says Alice Bender, Head of Nutrition Programs at AICR. “Wherever you are with physical activity, try to nudge it up a bit, either a little longer or a little harder. Make simple food shifts to boost protection – substitute veggies like carrots, bell peppers or green salad for chips and crackers and if you drink alcohol, stick to a single drink or less.”

The report was published online under the title Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer.


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