Physical activity looks like a potent weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Studies show that exercise may be able to cut the chance of developing this disease by as much as 40 percent.Scientists are still debating exactly how much and what type of exercise is best, but what’s clear is that getting up and moving is important for women’s breast health.
More Is Better
For cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of a vigorous-intensity exercise per week. It seems, too, that the more frequently and the harder you exercise, the better chance you stand against the disease. One analysis reported a 6 percent decrease in risk for every hour of physical activity per week.
Vigorous exercise like jogging or swimming laps may be better at warding off breast cancer than activities like walking or playing golf. But moderate exercise can help, too. One study showed that brisk walking just 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week cut risk by 18 percent.
How It May Work
Researchers don’t yet understand exactly how physical activity helps protect women against breast cancer. Exercise may act in several different ways, including:
- Reducing hormones like estrogen that promote cancer
- Lowering weight and body fat—obesity and overweight are linked to breast cancer
- Regulating insulin and other substances the body produces that encourage tumor growth
- Improving the immune system
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