Role of Exercise in Breast Cancer Prevention

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 8:51am

Age and family history can play a role in the development of breast cancer in women. Unfortunately, these risk factors are unavoidable. The good news is, modifiable risk factors exist --  including maintaining a healthy weight and a regular exercise program.

As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues during October, it’s important to recognize that exercise and diet can help in fighting this disease. Although the exact relationship between exercise and breast cancer prevention is a bit unclear, studies have linked the two in a positive relationship.

Juggling the demands of everyday life can make the word “exercise” sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Something as simple as a regular walking routine can provide a great deal of assistance. Many women find comfort in yoga, which can reduce stress levels and improve quality of life. It’s important to find something that you enjoy doing, and every little bit helps.

Remember that strength training can be a good thing. We have been told over the years that upper-body workouts can increase the risk of lymphedema, however recent studies have shown that this is not necessarily true. It is important to start with light weights and make any increases gradually.

Exercise is not only important in helping to ward off breast cancer, it plays a role throughout survivorship. Some women, especially high-risk patients, fear recurrence. However, many breast cancer survivors face separate, unrelated events later in life, such as cardiovascular disease. Staying healthy and developing a regular workout routine significantly decreases the risk of these non-cancerous diseases.

The point is to avoid sedentary behavior and physical inactivity. Not only will exercise reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, it will lead to an overall healthier and happier quality of life. Talk to your doctor about getting involved in an exercise program.