Even a brisk daily walk can cut the risk of breast cancer
Women who exercised for at least 90 minutes a day saw the most benefit with a 30 per cent drop in their breast cancer risk

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UPDATED:

13:01 GMT, 25 June 2012

Women saw a reduction in their breast cancer risk no matter how intense the exercise

Women saw a reduction in their breast cancer risk no matter how intense the exercise. Those who were active at least 90 minutes a day saw the most benefit

Light exercise – such as taking a stroll through the park – could reduce the risk of breast cancer, researchers say.

Studies have shown that physical activity can lower the risk, but the latest research suggests that even mild exercise can reduce the chances of cancer.

But as weight is also a factor women are warned to keep an eye on the scales if they are not exercising regularly.

Dr Lauren McCullough, of the University of North Carolina, looked for a link between recreational physical activity, done at different time points in life, and the risk of developing breast cancer.

She studied 1,504 women with breast cancer and 1,555 women without breast cancer, aged between 20 to 98.

Women who exercised either during their reproductive or postmenopausal years had a reduced risk of developing breast cancer, her team found in a study published in the journal Cancer.

Women who exercised 10 to 19 hours per week (90 minutes to 2 1/2hours a day) experienced the greatest benefit with an approximate 30 per cent reduced risk.

But risk reductions were observed at all levels of intensity, and exercise seemed to preferentially reduce the risk of hormone receptor positive breast cancer.

Dr McCullough said: 'The observation of a reduced risk of breast cancer for women who engaged in exercise after menopause is particularly encouraging given the late age of onset for breast cancer.'

Around 48,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and of these 80 per cent are over 50.

All women aged 50 to 70 in the UK are invited for breast cancer screening every three years. Those with a family history of breast cancer, are overweight and binge drink are at greater risk of developing the disease.

When the researchers looked at the effects of physical activity, weight gain, and body size, they found that even active women who gained a significant amount of weight – particularly after menopause – had an increased risk of developing breast cancer, indicating that weight gain can eliminate the beneficial effects of exercise on breast cancer risk.