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Exercise more to fend off postmenopausal breast cancer

Exercise more to fend off postmenopausal breast cancer

Postmenopausal women need to up their exercise to five hours a week to ward off breast cancer, say scientists.

After women have gone through the menopause, there is a tendency for weight gain. Fat cells become a strong source of the hormones that feed breast cancer, which is why a lot of cases of the disease strike older women.

Researchers from the Alberta Health Services in Canada selected a group of 400 women aged over 50, and asked them to exercise regularly.

Half of the group hit the gym for half an hour, five days a week. This is in keeping with the NHS and other world health associations guidelines. The remaining group upped the exercise to one hour a day, five days a week.

The second group lost the most weight over a year, including dangerous abdominal fat. Fat around the middle is thought to be particularly harmful as it wraps around vital organs, producing hormones and other substances that can damage the body.

Results showed that the women who undertook half an hour of fitness a day cut the risk of breast cancer by 4.6 per cent. However doubling that exercise was shown to ward off the disease by 6.9 per cent.

"Postmenopausal women may derive unique benefit from exercise because there is a tendency for weight gain and abdominal weight gain after the menopause," lead researcher Dr Jessica Friedenreich commented.

"Moreover, body fat, abdominal fat and adult weight gain increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.

"Our findings provide a basis for encouraging postmenopausal women to exercise at least 300 minutes a week."

The results are published in journal JAMA Oncology, with Dr Friedenreich adding that people of all ages can benefit from more exercise.

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