NOV 08, 2017 4:42 PM PST

Study: Exercise Cuts Risk of Breast Cancer Coming Back


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According to a medical review, the power to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring could well be within a patient’s control. And, even better, this method doesn’t involve expensive treatments or invasive procedures. Rather, to secure the odds of beating breast cancer for good, patients should engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight.

"Of all lifestyle factors, physical activity has the most robust effect on breast cancer outcomes," said Dr. Ellen Warner, the study’s senior author.

Warner along with co-author Julia Hamer reviewed 67 published articles that focuses on the effects of lifestyle changes on outcome after breast cancer diagnosis. In particular, they observed that weight gain increases the risk of death related to breast cancer. "Weight gain of more than 10% body weight after a breast cancer diagnosis increases breast cancer mortality and all-cause mortality,” the authors write.

But in addition, weight gain also contributes to negative effects on mood and body image," which the authors say can be detrimental to breast cancer survival.

Aside from keeping the extra pounds off, Warner and Hamer say that physical activity, even moderate sessions, can have significant impacts on survival.

"Following the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, along with two to three weekly sessions of strength training, can help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality."  

So, while it may sound old and outdated, the adage of diet and exercise seems truly important in the face of health and breast cancer. "Making positive lifestyle changes can also be psychologically beneficial to patients by empowering them, since the feeling of loss of control is one of the biggest challenges of a cancer diagnosis," write the authors.

But the authors caution that while these recommendations may improve health outcomes, it is not a silver bullet for all breast cancer types. Specifically, they acknowledge that some breast cancers are highly aggressive and may not respond to any diet and exercise regimen. For these cancers, recurrence is sometimes inevitable, and "patients should not be made to feel that inadequate lifestyle changes have led to recurrence of their cancer," the authors wrote.

Additional sources: Canadian Medical Association Journal via Science Daily

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
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