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Exercise Helps Prevent Breast Cancer

Studies Show Exercise May Lower Risk and Help Those With Breast Cancer Cope

23% Less Likely

The women who reported getting more than six weekly hours of strenuous recreational physical activity were 23% less likely to have breast cancer, compared to sedentary women, the study shows.

Exercise appeared to benefit women, regardless of age.

But the benefits were only seen in those with no family history of breast cancer.

The results held after adjusting for other breast cancer risk factors.

The study doesn't prove that exercise single-handedly prevented breast cancer or show how exercise may lower breast cancer risk.

The effects of exercise on hormones and weight may help, the researchers suggest.

They note that they don't know if the women accurately recalled their workout habits.

Exercise for Breast Cancer Patients

The second study comes from researchers including Nanette Mutrie, PhD, professor of exercise and sport psychology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

They studied 203 women with early-stage breast cancer who were 51 years old, on average, and hadn't been exercising.

The patients had had breast cancer surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy) and were getting chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to help prevent their cancer's return.

First, the women completed surveys about their mood and quality of life. They also took a 12-minute walking test and had their shoulder mobility checked.

Next, Mutrie's team split the women into two groups.

One group participated in a 12-week group exercise program. The other group wasn't asked to exercise.

Group Exercise Program

The women in the exercise group met twice weekly for 45-minute exercise classes. They were also encouraged to work out once a week on their own at home.

For the first six weeks of their 12-week program, the exercise group gathered after classes to discuss topics such as setting goals and the health benefits of exercise.

Both groups of women repeated the psychological and physical tests at the end of the 12-week program and again six months later.

Those in the exercise group had improved their scores on the physical tests and also reported being in a better mood and coping better with breast cancer. Those benefits generally held at the six-month follow-up. 

It's not clear how much of the benefits were due to the workouts or to the social aspect of group exercise.

However, the researchers say doctors "should encourage activity for patients with cancer," and that future studies should also investigate home-based exercise programs, which may be more convenient for some patients.

The study appears in BMJ Online First. BMJ was formerly called the British Medical Journal.



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