Spending less time sitting 'highly likely to lower breast cancer risk'

Could a standing desk lower your chances of breast cancer? Study finds people who sit for long periods have DOUBLE the risk of disease

  • Sitting for longer periods more than doubled risk of triple negative breast cancer
  • Experts compared cancer based on women’s genetic predisposition to exercise 
  • Those inclined to do more physical activity were 41% less likely to get tumours 

Using a standing desk may lower the risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

Scientists found ‘strong evidence’ that exercising and curbing sedentary behaviour cut the risk of women getting the disease.

There is now proof of a clear cause-and-effect relationship between keeping active and a lower risk of breast cancer, experts believe.

Charities hailed the findings, based on data from 130,000 women, saying they show just how vital ‘small, healthy lifestyle changes’ can be. 

The study did not look specifically at standing desks, but they are becoming increasingly common in offices among people with back pain.

Around 55,900 new breast cancer cases are found in the UK every year, making it the country’s most common cancer. 

It is the fourth most deadly form of cancer in the country, killing 11,500 annually. In the US, it strikes 264,000 annually and kills 42,000. 

Sitting down less and exercising more is ‘highly likely’ to lower your risk of breast cancer, an ‘innovative’ study claims

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at data from 130,957 women of European ancestry.

Of these, 69,838 had tumours that had begun to spread and 6,667 had cancer that had not yet done so.

They were compared to a control group of 54,452 women without breast cancer.

An international team of scientists identified genes linked to a lack of exercise and sedentary behaviour over a lifetime. 

This helped them filter out lifestyle factors that may have skewed previous studies which uncovered a link. 

For example, people who exercise a lot may also eat healthily, which could explain their lower risk of cancer. But the genes that are associated with liking coffee aren’t necessarily linked to lifestyle factors.

Results showed people with genetic variants linked to an active lifestyle were less likely to develop all breast cancer types by 40 per cent.

People who had genes indicating they sat down for longer periods had a 104 per cent higher risk of triple negative breast cancer — the hardest to treat form of the disease. 

These findings were consistent across hormone-negative tumour types, which tend to grow faster than breast cancers with oestrogen or progesterone receptors. 

The team, including experts from the University of Bristol, said the findings provide ‘strong evidence’ that more overall physical activity and less sitting time are likely to reduce breast cancer risk.

Writing in the journal, the researchers said: ‘Increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time are already recommended for cancer prevention. 

‘Our study adds further evidence that such behavioural changes are likely to lower the incidence of future breast cancer rates.

‘More widespread adoption of active lifestyles may reduce the burden from the most common cancer in women.’

Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, senior research communications manager at Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every 10 minutes.

‘And if nothing changes this will rise to one woman every eight minutes in the next 10 years.

‘We urgently need to find new ways to prevent people from developing this devastating disease.

‘While many factors can affect how likely someone is to be diagnosed, we already know that being physically active is linked to a lower chance of developing breast cancer.’

She said the ‘innovative’ study strengthens existing evidence of the importance of exercising and reducing sitting to lower the risk of breast cancer.

Dr Temcinaite added: ‘Maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake and being as active as possible, can all help reduce the risk of developing the disease.

‘This research highlights how vital it is that we support people to start making small, healthy lifestyle changes that can positively impact their health and help lower their risk of breast cancer.’

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.

Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.

Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.

The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast growing. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.

What causes breast cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign. 

The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

  • Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.

If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.

How is breast cancer treated?

Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.

  • Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
  • Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
  • Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.

How successful is treatment?

The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.

The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk, breastcancernow.org or www.cancerhelp.org.uk

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