Walking Reduces Cancer Risk and Improves Survival

Research Shows Benefits of Moderate Exercise

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Starting Line
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Starting Line. Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic/Getty

Great news for walkers!

Walking Reduces Endometrial Cancer Risks

Walking for 60 minutes a day, or doing housework for four hours a day, reduced the risk of endometrial cancer by 30% according to researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and the Shanghai Cancer Institute in China. This is great news for walkers, showing the effects of moderate physical activity. Interestingly, risks weren't reduced if you biked.

"In recent years, we have accumulated strong evidence that an active lifestyle can reduce the risk of colon and breast cancer. Now we are finding that physical activity may also reduce risk of endometrial cancer" said Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt, the lead author of this report.

"We were particularly pleased to see the beneficial effect on endometrial cancer risk of more accessible and lower intensity forms of activity like walking for transportation and doing household chores, as well as intentional exercise," he added. "Our results support the idea that the risk of cancer can be reduced by maintaining an active lifestyle."

Walking Improves Breast Cancer Survival

For those diagnosed and treated for breast cancer - start walking! Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University drew on the Nurses' Health Study, looking at 2296 women with stages I, II, and III breast cancer, diagnosed between 1984 and 1996.

Risk of death from breast cancer was reduced 19% in those who walked or did similar exercise 1-3 hours per week, by 54% for walking 3-5 hours per week (30 minutes a day would do it), 42% for those walking 5-7 hours per week (60 minutes a day) and 29% for those putting in over 7 hours of exercise per week.

"We were able to show that even a moderate amount of physical activity improved the odds of surviving breast cancer," said lead investigator Michelle D. Holmes, M.D., Dr.P.H. "It is especially heartening for women recovering from breast cancer to know that the benefit is as readily accessible as walking for 30 minutes on most days of the week."

Exercise Reduces Markers of Cancer Risk

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle studied 114 postmenopausal, overweight, sedentary women. They found that moderate exercise reduced markers of cancer risk.

Researchers put the women on a moderate exercise program of 45 minutes a day, five days a week, for a year. They tested them for two blood factors that show inflammation in the body - C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A, which have been associated with cancer risk and survival. These factors are often elevated in overweight people.

"Among obese women, those with a body mass index of 30 or higher," Cornelia M. Ulrich, PhD reported, "concentrations of CRP declined steadily over the course of the year from a baseline of 0.40 milligrams per deciliter to 0.32 milligrams. This effect of exercise on inflammatory markers may help to explain in part the associations observed between increased physical activity and reduced risk for cancer and other chronic disease."

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