Two hours or more per week of vigorous exercise, such as aerobics and running, reduced breast cancer risks in postmenopausal Black women by 64 percent, according to researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC).

Women who engaged in moderate exercise reduced their risks by 17 percent compared to women who did not exercise. Lead researcher Vanessa Sheppard presented these findings at the American Association of Cancer Research’s conference on cancer health disparities in racial and ethnic minorities held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3.

Researchers compared exercise routine questionnaires from 97 Black women recently diagnosed with breast cancer to 102 Black women who did not have breast cancer. Postmenopausal women had greater risk reductions thanks to exercise than premenopausal women.

Sheppard, a scientist and professor at LCCC, said that being physically active can also reduce the risks involved with other diseases prevalent in African-American communities, including hypertension and diabetes.

“Four out of five African-American women are either overweight or obese, and disease control is a particularly important issue for them,” Sheppard said in a release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Black women behind lung cancer. Also, while White women have the highest incidence rates of cancer in the United States, Black women are more likely to die from the disease. Black women are also more likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer, a very aggressive form of the disease.

Sheppard noted that current cancer research does not focus specifically on breast cancer in African-American women, and the evidence that proves a reduced risk through exercise has been inconsistent.

“We suggest that our findings, while promising, should be interpreted with caution. This is a pilot study and a larger, more rigorous study is needed to precisely quantify the effect of exercise on development of breast cancer,” she said. “I think it is fair to conclude that if African-American women exercise they can help take charge of their health.”