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The Big Issue with Breast Cancer: How Your Weight Affects Your Risk

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How to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

The good news is that lowering your breast cancer odds is as simple as taking a brisk 30-minute walk at least three times a week. "In a study, we found that women who get more than 60 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly significantly reduce their risk beginning after age 30," says lead researcher Lisa Sprod, PhD, research assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester in New York. And it's never too late to start. "Even if you weren't active before that time, you can still get maximum cancer protection," Sprod says.

Exercise's knockout punch comes from keeping weight down and blasting fat. But it helps in other ways too. For one thing, active women tend to have lower estrogen levels. "It's possible that moderate workouts cause shifts in menstruation patterns over time -- lengthening the time between periods, for instance -- that may reduce a woman's exposure to estrogen during her lifetime," Campbell says. Researchers believe that working out can also reduce inflammation. And it definitely lowers insulin levels. "Insulin is very sensitive to lifestyle changes, making it a strong risk factor for breast cancer," Irwin says. In one recent study, doing 90 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, along with two sessions of resistance training, lowered insulin production by 28 percent. That's enough to boost survival rates for women with breast cancer almost as much as chemotherapy does. "If lowering insulin accomplishes that, it stands to reason that it would help prevent breast cancer from occurring in the first place," Irwin explains.

So bike, power walk, take a dance class; do whatever you enjoy. Just keep the activity up -- and your weight down. And while you're at it, eat a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables containing cancer-fighting antioxidants. Among breast cancer survivors, that workout-good food combo appears to cut the risk of death within 10 years of diagnosis to half that of women who just exercise or who only eat a healthy diet, according to research. "There seems to be a cluster effect," says lead study author John P. Pierce, PhD, director of cancer prevention at the Moores University of California, San Diego Cancer Center in La Jolla. "Diet is most powerful in conjunction with physical activity and weight control."

All this research leads Tina Mitsis to believe that even with her ominous family history of breast cancer, she's getting things right. "Exercising and eating well make me feel I'm in control of my health," she says. "I really believe these are the smartest things any woman can do to protect herself."

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spirit_140 wrote:

I'm a breast cancer survivor and I'm overweight. I'm not obese but I'm chunky. My doctors did not discuss diet and exercise as a prevenative measure.But as I have been researching Diet and exercise seem to be the solution to most health issues. So I will be exercising and getting back to a healthy weight. Having cancer gives you motivation to prevent getting it again and if by eating better and exercising puts me at less risk, I'm on board!

10/4/2012 06:03:59 PM Report Abuse
kristie778 wrote:

I think the story is saying that being overweight increases your risk of cancer, not that being thin will protect you 100%. Of course thin people will get cancer too, but it is still beneficial to be at a healthy weight, have an active lifestyle and a nutritious diet.

10/8/2011 07:22:18 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

I got breast cancer at age 32 and was not heavy at that time. I also exercised daily. I had another bout with it ll years ago and was some heavier then but not much. Several of my friends have had the disease as well and are not heavy at all. I'm suspicious of the connection. - Kerrie

10/3/2011 04:24:51 PM Report Abuse
maiuria wrote:

Lots of healthy, thin women get breast cancer. Bottom line? No one knows what causes cancer, no one knows what cures cancer.

11/16/2009 09:58:35 AM Report Abuse

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