Lifestyle behaviors have long been identified as risk factors for both the development of, and negative outcomes, from breast cancer.
For example, obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg·m2 or higher) is associated with a 20% to 40% increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Combined obesity and physical inactivity account for an estimated 25% to 33% of all breast cancer.
Further, in patients diagnosed with breast cancer, obesity is associated with a 33% increased risk of recurrence.
Factors known to be protective for breast cancer include maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Unfortunately, exercise remains an underused preventive strategy.
It’s a well-established fact that physical activity helps to keep us healthy.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) strongly recommends exercise (alongside eating a balanced diet and maintaining your optimum body weight) as a breast cancer preventive measure.
HOW EXERCISE REDUCES RISK OF BREAST CANCER
- Exercise decreases body fat percentage and helps maintain a healthy weight.We all know that regular exercise can help lose weight and maintain a slim figure. This is important because fat cells in the body store high levels of estrogen, a hormone which is one of the strongest breast cancer risk factors when levels become too high with high fat percentage.
- Exercise decreases the levels of estrogen in body.
It is now believed that exercise can modify the pattern of a woman’s menstrual cycle, causing body to produce less estrogen. This therefore helps to lower breast cancer risk.
- Exercise strengthens immune system.
Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules which mutate cells and lead to cancer. Free radicals can, themselves, cause damage to the body but this is counter-balanced by production of antioxidants.
- Exercise provides a mental benefit and stress relief.
Exercise impacts directly upon your mood and emotions. Although it is often suggested and under ongoing investigation, a direct relationship between psychological stress and breast cancer has not been proven. Certainly, for those undergoing treatment or in the recovery phase, exercise is a fantastic stress-relief to help speed recovery and support treatment.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS ENOUGH?
You don’t need to an elite athlete to lower your breast cancer risk.
As little as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day has been said to significantly reduce susceptibility according to one recent study.
The ACS (American Cancer Society) have published some very clear and helpful guidelines in relation to exercises for breast cancer prevention:
1.To effectively lower breast cancer risk using exercise, adults should aim for a minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes vigorous-intensity activity spaced out across the week.
2.Ideally, a preventative exercise regimen should begin in childhood with 1 hour of activity per day (preferably vigorous-intensity at least 3 days per week)
3.Moderate-intensity exercise covers physical activity such as a brisk walking, gardening or cycling.
4.Vigorous exercise could include running, fast dance classes, soccer or any other exercise which gets your heart beating and works up a sweat.
Being physically active is not only a preventive measure for breast cancer but also helps in reducing the risk of recurrence in diagnosed cancer patients.