Can exercise reduce your risk?

According to a recent study from Scotland(1) more than a quarter of women believe there is nothing you can do to reduce the risk of breast cancer. In fact, many research studies conclude that being physically active, along with reducing alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy weight can all help in lowering the risk of breast cancer.

Over 80 studies have been conducted around the world into the benefits of exercise alone(2) .It’s believed that regular physical activity can reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk by as much as 25%.

Researchers have long linked regular exercise with lowering a woman’s risk of breast cancer especially after menopause, according to Pat Field, National Educator for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.
“It’s believed to work partly by lowering estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels can raise a woman’s probability of breast cancer,” says Pat.

Exercise also helps with weight control. Most estrogen comes from fat tissue after menopause, and having more fat tissue raises estrogen levels and, in turn, a woman’s breast cancer risk.

Pat says that it’s important for women to try and maintain a healthy body weight throughout their lives, but especially as they get older.

“Just 30 minutes a few times a week of brisk walking, swimming or any type of exercise can help lower the risk of breast cancer. But if you’re concerned about your weight, seek medical advice first before engaging in any strenuous physical activity."

The take-home message for women is to keep active to reduce the risk of breast cancer. And if you have become less active following illness or with age, consider taking up some gentle exercise. It’s never too late to start.

For more information on breast cancer risk factors, click here

(1) Results from YouGov poll 2013 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Scotland.
(2) Research team led by Christine Friedenreich of the Alberta Cancer Board, Canada, carried out a wide ranging review of the medical literature on physical activity and breast cancer.