As the incidence of breast cancer in American women continues to escalate at an unacceptable rate, millions of unsuspecting individuals remain fully unaware that they are able to dramatically mitigate the risk of this devastating illness by making any number of small lifestyle changes that could potentially save them from an early demise.

The American Cancer Society provides statistics that show more than a quarter of a million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,000 will die from the disease. Changes to diet and cosmetics use, limiting exposure to environmental toxins and more physical activity are all documented to dramatically lower the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Publishing in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention researchers from the American Cancer Society have found that walking at least 7 hours per week is associated with a 14% lower risk of developing breast cancer after menopause. This finding is consistent with many other studies that show regular exercise and a host of other lifestyle modifications can help women lower their risk of breast cancer. Interestingly, this study found the exercise helped women whether or not they were overweight and helped them even if they gained weight during the study.

Walking seven hours each day alters hormone activity and insulin levels to slash breast cancer risk

To conduct their study, scientists looked at breast cancer status and exercise levels in 73,615 postmenopausal women taking part in the CPS-II Nutritional Cohort Study. During the seventeen year study, 4,760 of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer. When the women were queried as to their physical activity, those who reported walking for seven hours per week as their only form of exercise experienced a 14 percent decrease in breast cancer incidence, as compared to those who only walked 3 hours each week.

The study leader, Dr. Alpa Patel, commented, “Our results clearly support an association between physical activity and postmenopausal breast cancer, with more vigorous activity having a stronger effect.” The team found that exercise reduced the risk of both oestrogen receptor positive and oestrogen receptor negative cancers. This study did not provide a reason for the risk-lowering results that the study yielded, but researchers believe that physical activity regulates hormones including oestrogen and insulin, which can fuel breast cancer growth.

Dr. Patel concluded, “Our findings are particularly relevant, as people struggle with conflicting information about how much activity they need to stay healthy. Without any other recreational physical activities, walking on average of at least one hour per day was associated with a modestly lower risk of breast cancer. More strenuous and longer activities lowered the risk even more.” Exercise physiologists recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity weekly, preferably spread throughout the week to dramatically lower the risk of breast cancer and virtually all chronic diseases.