Regular Activity Decreases Risk for Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in full swing and awareness is growing about the importance of screening, prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer.

Many people believe that the risk of developing breast cancer lies primarily in family history, age or taking combination hormone therapy but new research has also found a link between continuing regular physical activity in older age and decreased odds for developing breast cancer.

A 2014 French study followed nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women for an average of 8.5 years.  Among participants in the study more than 2,100 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer but those who had done regular exercise over the past four years were 10 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.  For the purpose of the study, regular exercise consisted of at least four hours of walking or cycling each week.

According to results from the study, published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, the benefits of regular exercise were independent of other factors including weight, body fat, waist circumference or exercise habits from five to nine years earlier.   Further studies have found that on average, breast cancer risk reduction associated with physical activity is 12 per cent among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Why does exercise reduce cancer risk?

According to the National Cancer Institute, it is believed that regular physical activity can lower hormone levels associated with cancer development.  It may also help reduce inflammation, improve immune system function, prevent obesity and speed digestion; lowering exposure to possible carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract.

Cancer Survivors can benefit too.

Regular physical activity can also help cancer survivors control weight gain, increase well being and quality of life by combating body image issues, fatigue and depression.  Regular exercise is also linked to better outcomes with a lower risk of recurrence or death from breast cancer.

For physical activity guidelines, visit the U.S. Department of Health by following this link.   To learn more about risk factors for breast cancer, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.