Brisk Exercise May Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Black Women

Breast cancer risk in black women lowered with vigorous exercise for several hours a week

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Exercise has been associated with many health benefits like reduced heart disease risk and stress. And new research suggests black women may be able to cut their breast cancer risk by working out.

Black women who exercised with activities like walking briskly, for seven hours per week or more had the lowest risk for breast cancer, researchers found.

"Exercise regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle."

This study was led by Lynn Rosenberg, ScD, professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health.

While much research has looked at the connection between exercise and breast cancer in white women, little research has examined it in black women.

The study authors looked at data from the Black Women’s Health Study. The analysis was limited to women 30 or older at the start of the study.

The 44,078 women filled out surveys at the start of the study in 1995, and then again in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2009. They were asked to report how much they exercised, whether the exercise was brisk, and whether they had been told they had breast cancer. Vigorous exercise included brisk walking, basketball, swimming, running and aerobics.

Black women who said they took part in the most vigorous weekly activity — working out seven hours per week or more — were 26 percent less likely to have breast cancer than women who reported exercising briskly less than one hour per week.

Women who worked out five to six hours per week were 11 percent less likely to have breast cancer than women who only did the same kind of workout less than one hour per week.

The study authors asked about hours spent watching TV or sitting for work but did not find these were connected with breast cancer.

The authors also asked the women about the type of breast cancer they had. Estrogen-negative breast cancer, in particular, is associated with poor outcomes in black women. The research did not show that brisk exercise reduced one type of breast cancer more than another.

The study authors noted that walking at a normal pace, rather than vigorously, did not reduce breast cancer incidence.

They noted that, although more research is needed, this study suggested that black women may have less breast cancer if they engage in regular, brisk activity.

In a press release, Dr. Rosenberg said “this is the first large scale study to support that vigorous exercise may decrease incidence of breast cancer in African American women."

Jack Newman, CEO of Austin Tennis Academy, told dailyRx News that it is easy to see the common sense in the results of this study.

“When the body is exercised in a vigorous manner, many health benefits occur," he said. "It is perfectly reasonable to see that vigorous exercise could help reduce the chances of cancer.”

He suggested that certain sports can provide plenty of brisk exercise.

“Sports like tennis, where participants have to exercise both in short bursts of duration, and compete for as long as three hours in a match, can provide excellent vigorous exercise,” he said.

This study was published online Aug. 7 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 14, 2014
Last Updated:
August 15, 2014