Physical activity, including moderate walks and cycling, reduces the risk of breast cancer, with the greatest benefit among women who are hormone-negative, according to a literature review of 62 studies on the effect of exercise on breast cancer risk. Other women whose gains are especially significant: non-whites, those with a family history of breast cancer, and those who have given birth to two or more children benefit the most from exercise.
The review, published in the May 13 edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that:
• In 76 percent of the studies, physically active women had a lower breast cancer risk; risk reduction was significant in 30 of the 62 studies.
• Among the studies that showed an effect, breast cancer risk was reduced by an average of 25 percent.
• Moderate activity such as walking or leisure cycling brought better odd—a 26 percent reduction—than high intensity exercise—a 22 percent reduction.
• Lifetime activity showed the greatest benefit—greater than that from activity around the time of diagnosis.
• Active postmenopausal women benefit the most. Activity over age 50 showed a greater risk reduction that activity in adolescence and early childhood.
• Thin is best, but only when associated with exercise. Women with a BMI of less than 22 had 19 percent greater risk reduction than women with a BMI above 25. (See the link on the left to compute your BMI.)
• A high BMI cuts the effect. Women with a BMI over 30, even if they are active, had no risk reduction from exercise.
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Read more about TNBC in my book, Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.