A great piece of research came out yesterday for women at risk for breast cancer: The report, published in the journal BMJ, analyzed over 60 existing studies and concluded that regular physical activity is linked to 25 percent lower breast cancer risk.
Let me rush to say that I've oversimplified the statistics, and this is not a new conclusion. (See this American Cancer Society article on breast cancer and exercise from 2005.) But the data provide some very specific insights worth sharing here.
Three things you need to know
1. First, the research shows that physical activity is linked to lower breast cancer risk, period. Just being more active--no matter who you are, or what kind of activity you get--pushes down breast cancer risk.
2. Moderate activity had the same benefits as vigorous activity. But the more exercise you got, the lower the risk. Which is to say: More exercise may be better for you, at least in terms of breast cancer risk, than more intense exercise.
3. And who, according to the findings, were found in the lowest-risk groups? Women who exercised after menopause. Women who get their exercise from recreational activities rather than through incidental activities like housework or job related effort. Who got the least risk-reducing benefits? Obese women.
What's so useful about this report is the way it verifies the value of, well. . .healthy living. It suggests regular, moderate exercise, done as an activity itself rather than a consequence of daily life, has significant power to lower breast cancer risk. And this is a similar exercise "dose" recommended for diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and some other serious conditions.
And obese women (as usual) do not enjoy reduced health risks.
But you knew most of this. And know what you need to do. One of our expert patients, PJ Hamel, has written several excellent SharePosts on breast cancer and exercise. Other members of our breast cancer community have written about their exercise regiments. And HealthCentral's Diet&Exercise community has these good resources on exercise and health.