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Exercise and Good Weight Control Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

Update Date: Oct 01, 2013 09:30 AM EDT

Being diagnosed with cancer can be one of the hardest things people hear in their lifetime. Even though cancer survival rates are a lot higher today than they ever were in the past thanks to medical advances and technology, battling the disease can take a toll on the body and mind. Due to the many hardships involved with cancer, researchers and doctors have been constantly recommending people to take preventative measures. In a new report, researchers found that people who exercised and maintained healthy weight control have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

"The greatest benefits for breast cancer reduction come from weight control and physical activity together," internist Ann McTiernan said according to USA Today. McTiernan is a researcher with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

McTiernan explained that even though researchers have not found the exact causes of breast cancer, they have been successful in identifying risk factors. Some of these risk factors are unfortunately uncontrollable. For example, simply being a woman raises the risk of breast cancer. However, despite these variables, there are also other ones that could be prevented. McTiernan's studies have focused on lifestyle changes in relation to breast cancer risk. McTiernan believes that a quarter of breast cancer cases could be avoided if people exercised and maintained their weight.

McTiernan stated that one of the leading contributors to breast cancer risk is weight gain. In a recent study, researchers discovered that obese women were four times more likely to have an extremely rare type of breast cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer. This type only accounts for one to six percent of all breast cancer cases. Researchers believe that weight is one of the causes of breast cancer due to the fact that weight tends to affect estrogen levels. Body fat increases estrogen levels, which then creates a place for breast cancer to thrive.

Due to the association between weight and breast cancer risk, McTiernan recommends that all women try to lose between five and 10 percent of their body weight. McTiernan analyzed data provided from the Women's Health Initiative to estimate how much exercise women should do per week. She found that as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours each week of brisk walking could reduce a woman's risk of breast cancer by 18 percent. If women walked 10 hours per week, that risk would reduce even more. Aside from estrogen, fat also affects inulin levels. Obese people tend to have too much insulin, which could lead to an increase in breast cancer risk as well.

McTiernan added, "It's never too late to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk for breast cancer."

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