By exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, you may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer or having a recurrence if you’re a breast cancer survivor.
Weight gain during adulthood is a strong predictor of breast cancer risk. Gaining more than 10 pounds increases your risk by 18 percent. A body mass index (BMI) greater than 33 increases your risk of breast cancer by 27 percent.
Women already diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to survive if they are not overweight. Those with BMIs greater than 30 respond less favorably to endocrine and chemotherapy treatments than women of healthy weight, and have greater risk of developing cancer in another area.
This data tells physicians that we can’t treat cancers with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy while ignoring the importance of maintaining healthy weight.
Exercise To Reduce Weight and Risk
More and more, research is making a connection between exercise and breast cancer prevention and survival. Why?
- Exercise helps you control your weight.
- Exercise may lower estrogen levels which can help reduce the risk of an estrogen-receptor breast cancer -- about 75 percent of all breast cancers.
- Exercise may boost the body’s immune system so it can fight the growth of cancer cells.
- Exercise can improve your mood and feeling of overall well-being.
French researchers recently examined studies involving more than 4 million women worldwide over a 26-year period. Those who were active had better odds of avoiding breast cancer. The most active women (engaged in more than an hour a day of vigorous activity) showed the most benefit, lowering their cancer risk by 12 percent. For breast cancer survivors, physical activity can reduce the odds of a recurrence, and increase the likelihood of survival.
A Little Bit Goes A Long Way
Best of all, you don’t need intense exercise to benefit. Current national guidelines recommend you get about 150 minutes of exercise a week, which breaks down to about a half an hour of brisk walking five times a week. Last year, an analysis of data from the American Cancer Society demonstrated that walking, even at a pace of about three miles per hour, can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
It’s hard to ignore the wealth of evidence that shows exercise influences your risk of developing cancer or having it come back. While the numbers vary depending on the research, the bottom line is always the same: Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are important to your breast health. Ready to take a walk?
Find tips on healthy living on our blog: LGHealthHub.org