Exercise and Breast Cancer

Up to a third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more. That’s the latest from a European breast cancer conference in Barcelona.

While better treatments, early diagnosis and mammogram screenings have dramatically slowed the disease, experts say the focus should now shift to changing behaviours like diet and physical activity.

Many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, a hormone produced in fat tissue. So experts suspect that the fatter a woman is, the more estrogen she’s likely to produce, which could in turn spark breast cancer. Researchers from the University of Milan say even in slim women, exercise can help reduce the cancer risk by converting more of the body’s fat into muscle.

It’s a sensitive topic, and the researchers say they would never want women to feel responsible for their breast cancer. But they cited figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which estimated a 25 to 30 per cent drop in cases if women followed this advice. They say that means staying slim and never becoming overweight in the first place, because it’s not clear if women who lose weight have a lower cancer risk or if the damage was already done from when they were heavy.

Bottom line exercising more is a good idea, but remember, breast cancer is a complex disease and there are so many factors responsible that it’s difficult to blame it on one specific issue.

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