WASHINGTON – The risk of breast cancer in African-American women can be dramatically reduced with vigorous exercise, according to researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and they say even moderate exercise has significant benefits. The study reveals a 64 percent drop in risk for women who vigorously exercise at least two hours a week.
“People often want know what they can do to reduce their risk of disease, and we have found that just two hours or more per week of vigorous activity can make a difference in one’s risk of developing breast cancer,” said the study’s lead researcher,Vanessa Sheppard, PhD, an assistant professor at Lombardi. She presented her study today at the 3rd AACR conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Miami.
Data regarding the association of physical activity and breast cancer has been equivocal and lacking for African-American women, says Sheppard, but, she adds, many benefits of exercise are already known.
“We know from other studies that being physically active can have benefits in other diseases that occur at high rates in African-American women, such as diabetes and hypertension,” Sheppard said. “Four out of five African-American women are either overweight or obese, and so disease control is a particularly important issue for these women.”
For the study, 199 women from the Washington, DC metro area participated. Of them, 97 were recently diagnosed with breast cancer and 102 did not have a breast cancer diagnosis. The women completed a physical activity questionnaire that asked about their exercise int he past year included walking for exercise and vigorous physical activity (e.g., running, aerobics, etc.). Responses were used to calculate a metabolic equivalent (MET) score (hours/week = hours/week vigorous activity × 7 + hours/week walking ×3). The MET score was then categorized as low, medium and high. A high score was indicative of more physical activity or more frequent exercise.
African-American women who engaged in vigorous physical activity (more than 2 hours a week in the past year of her life) had a 64 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who reported little physical activity. Sheppard says women who engaged in moderate exercise had a 17 percent reduced risk, compared to women in the low tertile.
“Several diet and exercise studies have been conducted in Caucaisan women, but there is limited information about diet and exercise in African-American women,” Sheppard explains. “It is important to identify breast cancer risk factors in this population that can be modified because African-American women suffer from higher rates of mortality compared to white women. Also, African-American women with breast cancer tend to be overweight and have more chronic conditions at diagnosis compared to white women.”
About Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), home to 60 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding.