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Exercise and its Relationship to Breast Cancer

Even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, the possibility of developing of cancer is a commonsense concern for most people. If you’ve ever had a brush with cancer, even via a close friend or family member, then you have some idea of how abruptly a diagnosis can seem to throw your entire world upside down. As a result, we spend hours of our lives researching antioxidants and risk factors. However, there is one element you probably aren’t paying enough attention to: exercise.

Evidence and Exercise

Recent medical studies focusing on the relationship between breast cancer and exercise divide the correlation into three separate spheres: prevention, resiliency, and remission. One synthetic work published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has become the gold standard for this discussion, as its combination of a multitude of studies positively identified exercise as a beneficial action in the prevention and handling of breast cancer.

Admittedly, this study was performed in 2006 and only 14 of the 136 studies identified met their inclusion criteria; fortunately, scientists continue to study the benefits of exercise in relation to breast cancer with positive results. A group of scientists associated with the Health Studies Center in Toronto, Canada recently released their own review of 67 published studies focusing on the effects of exercise on remission and mortality rates.

Their work demonstrated that regular exercise reduced breast cancer recurrence and mortality by 40%. The group does include one caveat, indicating that there is a possibility that weight maintenance is a contributing factor. Their study also revealed that patients in remission who gained more than 10% of their body weight saw increased risk of mortality.

How it Affects You

Percentages and decimal points can feel abstract when you’re trying to digest them without scientific training. The core point is that exercise helps your body to maintain a proper balance, which decreases your risk of developing cancer in the first place and helps keep you healthy through treatment and beyond.

Additionally, studies focused on quality of life during cancer treatment do show that exercise has a positive influence on patients. The study, performed by the University of Alberta’s Cross Cancer Institute found that chemotherapy patients who regularly exercised demonstrated higher levels of self-esteem and higher rates of chemotherapy completion. The scientists theorize that the two combined perpetuate patients’ perception of a higher quality of life, even when there is no measurable increase, as well as their chances of going into remission without recurrence.

What Can You Do?

Measuring proper exercise levels is a complicated business that revolves around your body type, eating habits, and time spent sedentary. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society has some basic guidelines to help you determine whether you’re exercising enough. The most current estimates suggest that all adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. You could potentially shove this into a couple of sessions, but their research suggests that it is better to pace yourself throughout the week, doing 20 to 30 minutes per day. Alternatively, if you prefer vigorous exercise, then 75 minutes per week is enough to meet their minimum requirements.

Your focus should be to maintain a healthy weight according to your body type, height, and age. There’s no need to turn into a fitness guru to protect your health. You just have to stay moderately active and take care of yourself, so throw on that sports bra, and go for a jog. Your efforts to prevent cancer can start today. If you’ve already been diagnosed, then remember that exercise is still an important part of your own treatment plan. Speak to your doctor at Breast Health Institute Houston about when it is safe to resume regular exercise after surgery and during chemotherapy.

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Houston Breast Cancer Surgeon

Darlene M. Miltenburg MD, FRCS(C), FACS
Call US 713-795-0161
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