Exercise Decreases the Risk of Developing Breast Cancer in Women

by Dr Sam Girgis on June 25, 2012

Living a healthy lifestyle is known to have many beneficial effects, and include improved quality of life and decreased mortality risk.  Living a healthy lifestyle includes smoking cessation, limiting alcohol consumption, dieting, and obtaining proper sleep quality and quantity.  In addition, regular exercise has many beneficial effects and includes cardiovascular health, increased endurance, and higher energy levels.  We have previously discussed the research finding that regular exercise and healthy living decreases mortality and improves quality of life.

Researchers, lead by University of North Carolina doctoral candidate Lauren McCullough, have found that regular exercise can decrease the risk of developing breast cancer for women.  The results of their study were published online in the journal Cancer.

The researchers investigated the connection between recreational physical activity at different points in life and the risk of breast cancer in women.  The study included 1,504 women with breast cancer and 1,555 women without breast cancer aged 20 to 98 years of age who were enrolled in the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project.  The investigators found that women, who exercised on a regular basis either during their reproductive years or during menopause, were less likely to be at risk of developing breast cancer.  It was found that women who exercised 10 to 19 hours per week or 1-2 hours per day had the greatest benefit and decreased their risk of breast cancer by 30 percent.  The researchers found that even a mild degree of physical activity and exercise was beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer.  When the researchers evaluated the effect of weight gain, they found that in women who were physically active, weight gain especially after menopause increased the risk of developing breast cancer despite the physical activity and exercise.  This suggests that weight gain negated the beneficial effects that exercise has on the risk of breast cancer.

The authors wrote, “Collectively, these results suggest that women can still reduce their breast cancer risk later in life by maintaining their weight and engaging in moderate amounts of activity”.

Future study should evaluate whether exercise can decrease the risk of other cancers as well as whether this beneficial effect is also observed in men.



McCullough LE, et al. “Fat or fit: The joint effects of physical activity, weight gain, and body size on breast cancer riskCancer 2012 DOI: 10.1002/cncr.27433

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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