Jan
29
2009

Can diet and exercise help prevent breast cancer?

Run4Cure341 (Photo by Dawn - Pink Chick - CC-BY)

Run4Cure341 (Photo by Dawn - Pink Chick - CC-BY)

It appears that women have another very good reason to stay in shape! Researchers have found that women of all ages may be able to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by participating in physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

Obesity is one of the major risk factors for developing breast cancer after menopause.  According to a researchers at the University of Wisconsin, breast cancer in postmenopausal women could be substantially reduced if women would take control over two simple but significant modifications in lifestyle – physical activity and weight gain.

Calorie restriction and exercise can help prevent tumor growth in women at risk for developing breast cancer. Creating a “negative energy balance” through diet and exercise can lead to weight loss and a decrease in the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer associated with obesity, say researchers at the University of Texas in Austin.

A recent study from the National Cancer Institute confirms that vigorous exercise can protect against breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are not overweight. The association between strenuous exercise and reduced breast cancer risk was most significant among post-menopausal women who were lean or of normal weight. Of the 32,269 women evaluated,  breast cancer risk among the women who reported the highest amount of vigorous activity decreased  by about 30% compared with women with no vigorous activity. Vigorous exercise highlighted by the researchers included strenuous activities like scrubbing floors, digging in the garden, and intense aerobic exercise like dancing, jogging, running and cycling uphill.

The link between exercise and reduced breast cancer risk is significant in light of other studies which show that high blood sugar levels and obesity are two factors associated with increased breast cancer  in postmenopausal women. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University found that those women with the highest blood insulin levels had a risk of developing breast cancer two times greater than women with the lowest insulin levels.

Exercise as a breast cancer preventative is beneficial in the early years as well. A study of 64,777 women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study ll  found that regular exercisers have a 23 percent lower chance of developing breast cancer in the premenopausal years. Females who exercised regularly between the ages of 12 and 35 had the lowest risk of developing breast cancer before menopause compared to their peers who were less active during those years.

If there was ever a reason for mothers and daughters to encourage each other to eat well and exercise, few would argue that preventing breast cancer would be near the top of the list!

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  Need research? Quezi's researchers can answer your questions at uclue.com

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