April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Housework, exercise, breast cancer: which of these things does not belong? None of them, it turns out. There is a distinct relationship between breast cancer risk and your level of physical activity.
Two-and-a-half hours of housework or walking a day can reduce a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by 6 percent, a new study has found. Three hours of gardening, or being moderately active, is good for a 10 percent drop in risk levels, while extremely active women willing to do six hours of housework a day, can see a 13 percent drop in risk.
The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, looked at 257,805 women across Europe who were part of the massive European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study, which looks into the dietary habits of more than half a million people in Europe, and was funded by Cancer Research UK. The research team says that the findings are particularly important because adding exercise or activity to your day is a relatively simple way of reducing cancer risk.
According to the Telegraph, 8,034 new cases of cancer that were diagnosed over 11 years were examined and analyzed according to how much exercise the patients did and other factors such as body weight, whether or not they breastfed, and alcohol intake. When the other factors were taken into account, it was found that the more exercise or daily activity a woman got, the bigger the reduction in their cancer risk. Even moderate amounts of exercise still had an effect. This study is thought to be the largest ever to look at physical activity and breast cancer.
Around 48,500 women and 371 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually in the UK and around 11,500 women and 77 men die from the disease each year.
Previous research has estimated that more than three percent of breast cancers, more than five percent of colon cancers and around four percent of womb cancers in the UK in 2010 were linked to people doing less than the recommended 150 minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity per week. Only 39 percent of men and 29 percent of women manage to get the full 150 minutes of activity per week.
Physical activity was calculated using a measure called a MET, short for metabolic rate. One MET is equivalent to sitting quietly for an hour. Walking is given three METs, cycling six, gardening an hour is worth 4-5 METs, housework three, and climbing stairs a whopping eight METs.
Co-author Professor Tim Key, from the University of Oxford, said, “This large study further highlights the benefits of being active, even moderate amounts. There is also a lot of evidence that exercise reduces the risk of bowel cancer. More research is needed on other types of cancer, and to investigate the mechanisms which could explain the links.”
“An important finding of the study is that inverse associations of breast cancer with both moderate and high physical activity levels were observed. Unlike many risk factors for breast cancers, physical activity is an exposure that can be modified. Thus, it is worthy of consideration for cancer prevention programs to note that these levels of activity are achievable by most of the at risk population, and that already some changes in physical activity behavior could have a positive influence on breast cancer incidence,” Key told the Telegraph’s Rebecca Smith.
Prof. Key indicated that the women in this study came from a generation where they did a lot of home cooking, manual housework, or had active jobs which meant they were able to reach these relatively high levels of activity. However, the findings were based on self reporting of activity levels, which means the participants may have overestimated their activity.
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, told the Daily Mail, “While maintaining a healthy bodyweight and cutting back on alcohol remain two of the best ways of reducing our risk of breast cancer, being active can clearly play a role too, but doesn´t have to cost you money or too much time. And, as this research confirms, exercise can include anything that leaves you slightly out of breath like doing the gardening, walking the dog or housework.”
“Small changes in your daily routine can make all the difference, like taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking some of the way to work, school or the shops and add up over the course of a week. Keeping active could help prevent more than 3,000 cases of cancer in the UK every year. And it can have a positive effect on your health.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity, Breast Cancer Campaign told the Telegraph reporter, “This study adds further evidence that our lifestyle choices can play a part in influencing the risk of breast and other cancers. The challenge now is how we turn these findings into action to ensure that existing and future health initiatives work as hard as they can to reach those people who would most benefit. It is important to remember that while exercise can help reduce risk, being a woman and increasing age are the biggest risk factors, both of which we can do nothing about.”
Lowering your risk of breast cancer is not the only positive result of more physical activity. Other research suggests that 10-minute bursts of activity, like hauling laundry up and down the stairs, can also accumulate throughout the day to help protect our hearts. Men should pitch in too, since researchers have demonstrated that women´s levels of stress hormones go down after work when men assume some of the responsibilities of meal preparation and other chores.
Though you might see faster and more dramatic results by lifting weights and going to the gym, this study shows that you should not discount standing at the counter chopping vegetables or working in the garden either. Every bit of physical activity during a day adds up, and anything that gets us up off the couch and moving makes us healthier, reports Deborah Kotz for the Boston Globe.