Does Exercise Help Lower Your Risk Of Breast Cancer?

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“Never assume that you will not be affected by breast cancer. It is always better to take steps to reduce your risk. And staying fit is just one of them. Advertisements”

Some of us are genetically predisposed to certain illnesses than the others. But when it comes to breast cancer, every girl needs to take precautions to lower her risk. Even if nobody in your family is affected by breast cancer, you might not be completely safe. We all know that we need to check our breasts for lumps and abnormal discharge from the nipples. But one thing that can significantly lower your risk of developing breast cancer is exercise.

Relationship Between Fitness And Cancer

How are fitness and cancer related?


According to studies, there is an inverse relationship between fitness and cancer. The fitter we are, the more our body is able to ward off carcinogens (cancer-causing elements). And physical activity, along with a healthy body weight, contributes to maintaining fitness.[ref]Na, Hye‐Kyung, and Sergiy Oliynyk. “Effects of physical activity on cancer prevention.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1229, no. 1 (2011): 176-183.[/ref]

We associate the idea of fitness with physical exercise – the more we exercise, the fitter we become. But this notion of fitness might not entirely be true. Recent studies have proposed the idea that fitness is innate and genetic. This means that fitness levels are carried down by families. You were either born with a high standard of fitness or you were not. For the less fortunate of us who aren’t fit by heredity, exercise can help. While exercise can’t change our body’s fitness level entirely, it can contribute to enhancing it.[ref]Bouchard, Claude, E. Warwick Daw, Treva Rice, L. O. U. I. S. Pérusse, Jacques Gagnon, Michael A. Province, ARTHUR S. Leon, D. C. Rao, James S. Skinner, and Jack H. Wilmore. “Familial resemblance for VO2max in the sedentary state: the HERITAGE family study.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 30, no. 2 (1998): 252-258.[/ref] So, some of us need more exercise than the others to reduce our risk of certain malignancies like breast cancer.


Recent studies have revealed that aerobic fitness can modify the cell such that it cuts down the risk of breast cancer. In a study performed on female rats, the ones that had a higher level of fitness had a reduced risk of cancer. Though it was found out that fitness plays a role in preventing breast cancer, the researchers were not able to conclude whether it was innate fitness or exercise-fueled fitness that helped lower the risk. But, it was clear that the rats who were unfit were up to four times more likely to develop breast cancer, than the ones who had aerobic fitness. The rats that were fit showed a certain activity in their cells, which prevented the development of cancer.

We know that uncontrolled multiplication of cells results in the growth of a tumor. Cells in the body divide and grow in number based on the activity of the mTOR network (short for mammalian target of rapamycin). Physically unfit rats had a hyperactive mTOR network, which increased their risk of cancer.[ref]Thompson, Henry J., Lee W. Jones, Lauren G. Koch, Steven L. Britton, Elizabeth S. Neil, and John N. McGinley. “Inherent aerobic capacity-dependent differences in breast carcinogenesis.” Carcinogenesis 38, no. 9 (2017): 920-928.[/ref] Meanwhile, women with breast cancer are also reported to have a hyperactive mTOR pathway, thus displaying the correlation between fitness and exercise.[ref]Wang, Shengfeng, Dezheng Huo, Temidayo O. Ogundiran, Oladosu Ojengbede, Wei Zheng, Katherine L. Nathanson, Barbara Nemesure, Stefan Ambs, Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, and Yonglan Zheng. “Association of breast cancer risk and the mTOR pathway in women of African ancestry in “The Root” Consortium.” Carcinogenesis (2017).[/ref]


What Can You Do To Prevent Cancer?

While it might not be possible to detect whether we are innately fit or not, exercise can definitely play a role in increasing your fitness. Here are a few simple things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

1. Reduce Your Weight

Obesity can increase risk of cancer.


Studies observe that obesity is linked to cancer, and this correlation is higher in postmenopausal women. Get enough exercise, walk every day, and watch what you eat. You don’t need to opt for crazy crash diets to achieve weight loss – a balanced diet and regular exercise will do the trick.[ref]Lifestyle-related Breast Cancer Risk Factors. American Cancer Society.[/ref]

2. Walking

Walk every day to prevent cancer.


Yes, a simple activity like walking daily can help prevent cancer. You don’t have to hit the gym every day or perform extremely intense exercises. According to the Women’s Health Initiative, you only need to brisk walk 1.25 to 2.5 hours every week to reduce your breast cancer risk by 18%. This equates to only 15 minutes of walking every day. Now, that’s not too much, is it?[ref]McTiernan, Anne, Charles Kooperberg, Emily White, Sara Wilcox, Ralph Coates, Lucile L. Adams-Campbell, Nancy Woods, and Judith Ockene. “Recreational physical activity and the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: the Women’s Health Initiative Cohort Study.” Jama 290, no. 10 (2003): 1331-1336.[/ref]

3. Opt For Yoga

Yoga can reduce your risk of breast cancer.


Whether you’re battling breast cancer or simply looking out to avoid it, yoga can be of great help. Yoga keeps you healthy and fit, by building strength, stamina, and flexibility.[ref]Kollak, Ingrid Kollak, Isabell Utz-Billing. Yoga and Breast Cancer: A Journey to Health and Healing. Demos Medical Publishing, 2010.[/ref] Some of the yoga poses that will help are the child pose, savasana, and pranayama.[ref]

Never assume that you will not be affected by breast cancer. It is always better to take steps to reduce your risk. And staying fit is just one of them.