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Breast cancer survival could reach 100% by 2034; physically active lifestyle helps lower risk

8th September 2012

A physically active lifestyle – such as doing housework, brisk walking and gardening – can lower the risk of breast cancer by up to 13%, according to the largest-ever study of its kind.

The research is part of ongoing work by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), a Cancer Research UK co-funded study and one of the biggest studies into the links between diet, lifestyle and cancer.

Researchers looked at over 8,000 breast cancer cases in women. They found that the group who were most physically active were 13% less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who were inactive. Women who were moderately active had an 8% lower chance of developing the disease.

Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at the University of Oxford who works on the EPIC study, 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."

The UK government recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week – such as brisk walking. But only 39 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women are currently managing this.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: "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.

"You don't need to train like an Olympic athlete, but the excitement of watching team GB win so many golds might have inspired some of us to spend less time on the sofa. 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."

In the UK, breast cancer survival rates have nearly doubled since 1970 and show a consistent upward trend. Latest available data indicates that on current trends, 10-year survival rates could reach 100% by 2034.

10 year survival rate for breast cancer in the uk


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