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Exercise reduces risk of developing womb cancer

by British Journal of Cancer | News

29 September 2010

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Women who exercise and keep active are around 30 per cent less likely to develop womb cancer than couch potatoes – according to a new study published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

In a detailed review of the available evidence, scientists from the United States have found a strong link between the amount of exercise and physical activity women do and a lower risk of developing womb cancer.

In a separate study of 70,000 women they also found that sitting down for longer periods of time was associated with increased risk of the disease.

Dr Steven Moore, lead author of the study from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, said: “Physical activity is known to reduce risk for breast and colon cancer, and now our study has found that physical activity can reduce risk for womb cancer as well. We already knew that maintaining a healthy body weight is an important way to reduce the risk of womb cancer, but our study showed that physical activity has a protective effect of its own.”

“Interestingly, we also found a link between total time spent sitting and womb cancer. Spending less time sitting and more time on your feet may complement exercise as a way of preventing the disease.”

“Further research is needed to discover how different types, levels and amounts of physical activity affect a woman’s chance of developing the disease.”

Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women with more than 7,500 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK.

In the last 10 years – of the top 10 most common cancers in women – incidence rates for womb cancer have risen the second fastest, after malignant melanoma skin cancer.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “This new research provides clear evidence that the more active women are – and the less time they spend sitting down – the less likely they are to develop womb cancer. This may be because exercise and activity reduces levels of the sex hormone oestrogen. Overexposure to oestrogen can increase the risk of the disease. Keeping active and doing plenty of exercise as well as spending more time on your feet will help reduce the risk of womb cancer.

“All women should be aware of the symptoms of womb cancer which include abnormal vaginal bleeding – especially for post-menopausal women, abdominal pain and pain during sex. Although these symptoms don’t usually mean cancer, as they could be signs of other diseases like fibroids or endometriosis, it’s still vital to get them checked by a doctor. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful.”


Moore et al. Physical activity, sedentary behaviours, and the prevention of endometrial cancer. British Journal of Cancer (2010) 1-6