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Menopause work-outs 'can reduce cancer risk'

By Peter Apps

Women who exercise regularly for four years after the menopause can "rapidly decrease" their risk of breast cancer, a study has found.

Those who exercised moderately saw their risk of cancer drop by up to 10%, but those who had abandoned exercise regimes saw no benefit.

Even low levels of exercise, such as playing with children, walking or gardening, would be enough to have an impact on risk if carried out regularly, the study found.

Post-menopausal women have a higher risk of breast cancer, with the risk highest in those who experience it late.

In the UK, 51 is the average age for a woman to reach the menopause, although some experience it in their 30s or 40s.

The study, published today in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, showed post-menopausal women who had regularly burnt calories equivalent to four hours of walking per week saw a benefit.

Researchers analysed data from questionnaires by almost 60,000 women, enrolled into a French cancer study over eight years. Among these, 2,155 were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The diagnosis rate was 10% lower among those who had carried out regular exercise over the past four years.

Those who had exercised regularly five to nine years previously but had since stopped did not see a reduced risk.

Sally Greenbrook of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: "Being physically active doesn't need to be running or going to the gym – it can be anything that raises your pulse.

"Breast cancer is most common in post-menopausal women so it is great to see evidence like this which supports the message that physical activity in this age group is beneficial."

The study is the first to demonstrate how quickly the link between exercise and decreased risk can develop after regular exercise starts and how fast it disappears once exercise stops.

Agnes Fournier, PhD, a researcher at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, who helped carry out the research, said: "We found that recreational physical activity, even of modest intensity, seemed to have a rapid impact on breast cancer risk."

The analysis of 37 studies made over 26 years showed regular exercise could reduce the risk of breast cancer in women of all ages by 12%.

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